Some words become loaded with unnecessarily negative connotations. Take the words “ego” and “vulnerability,” for example. Vulnerability conjures weakness, disability and docility. Ego has come to be associated with vanity, overconfidence and even aggression. A “huge ego” is depicted as a negative trait. However, it’s at the nexus of vulnerability and ego that we find balance. Both characteristics, when controlled, combine to create a person who is self-confident without being overbearing, and who is empathetic and open without being ineffective.
The Upside of Vulnerability
What many people don’t realize is that a willingness to be vulnerable, especially in a professional situation, takes courage and strength. It is by being vulnerable that we become open…to new viewpoints, ideas and perspectives. By admitting you don’t have all the answers, you allow others to contribute their thoughts, opening new avenues for the entire team.
Vulnerability also allows you to grow because it pushes you out of your comfort zone. Without being willing to try something new—and perhaps fail—you will never move beyond your existing skillset and perspective. For leaders, the willingness to take a chance can also benefit team members. If you can accept your colleagues when they do things differently than you would, you allow them to grow and forge new paths, which benefits everyone. When leaders are vulnerable, it can help build trust within the team.
An Ego in Check
From a psychological perspective, ego is essential. It provides us with self-esteem and confidence. Without a healthy ego, you are less likely to speak up, contribute ideas or make decisions—exactly the opposite of what you want on your team. However, too much ego can make someone, let’s face it, obnoxious (read our piece on The Death Triangle.) Unchecked, one person’s ego can effectively shut down the dynamics of an entire team.
Ego and vulnerability work best in concert, as yin and yang. Ego can be the armor protecting our vulnerability, but you don’t want to be impenetrable. It’s at the nexus of vulnerability and ego that you can be at your most effective.
Our Performance Dynamics® Assessment evaluates different combinations of specific traits to measure your level of willingness to be vulnerable and manage your ego.