By Kristy Wallace – I’m obsessed with the future of work. It is thrilling to think about the ways work is changing and how businesses and people will change too. How will new generations impact the workplace? How is technology redefining the ways we communicate, where we live, and which jobs and industries will become obsolete? How will companies leverage their tools and knowledge to drive social impact? Throughout these musings, I continue to find my way back to the concept of vulnerability. In a future world where so much will be automated, tracked, modified, and perfected, I predict that vulnerability will be crucial to retaining the human nature of work and will drive innovation in new and meaningful ways.
Jennifer DaSilva, president of creative agency Berlin Cameron and founder of Girl Brands Do It Better, conducted groundbreaking research, which found that millennials are leading the charge in setting the standard for the future of work. “Upcoming generations are making it clear that the old workplace models just aren’t acceptable any longer,” notes DaSilva. “Thanks to brave women paving the way, we’re getting to a place where being vulnerable and real is suitable in a corporate environment.”
Ellevate Network and Berlin Cameron partnered up to investigate the power of vulnerability in the workplace. After surveying a sample of professional women across the country, 96% of respondents reported that they learn more from a leader who shows vulnerability than one who doesn’t. As a CEO, I am constantly thinking about this. With remote work, email, Slack, and texts, I worry about diminishing human connection. Vulnerability is nearly impossible to convey without actual human interaction. If vulnerability is our opportunity to connect with and inspire a workforce, the future of work must prioritize ways to build these connections in an evolving landscape.
I’ve had the great honor of speaking with hundreds of inspiring women on the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations with Women Changing the Face of Business. We cover topics from success to failure, grit and resilience, lessons learned, and tips for success. Vulnerability is a topic that comes up quite frequently during these interviews, and I felt compelled to share some of the insights we uncovered about how vulnerability in the workplace can be a driving force in the future.
Imagine a life with no limits. “First, find your joy,” says Sally Hubbard. “Too many people get caught running in the hamster wheel and never actually accomplish what fulfills them. Make time to articulate exactly what your ideal life would be like without limits. Open yourself to possibilities to realize and achieve your dreams.”
Sally Hubbard is the editor of The Capitol Forum and the host of the podcast “Women Killing It.”
Overcome doubt. “People like us who are go-getters and ambitious wake up every morning scared,” shares Betty Liu. “Staying determined despite obstacles means, practically speaking, that one must counter long-term goals with short-term strategies for dealing with setbacks. Every day contains mistakes or moments of doubt. Get over it and move on.”
Betty Liu is a journalist, author, podcaster, and host of Bloomberg’s “Daybreak Asia.”
Stop fearing the unknown. “I think of leaving my job as one of the most courageous things I’ve had to do,” shares May Busch. “I’m almost embarrassed to say, because it’s psychological fear. You read about terrible things happening around the world, and then to say, ‘well, the bravest thing I ever did was step away from my really great job with wonderful people to go into the unknown’ may seem ridiculous or privileged.”
May Busch had a stellar career in finance, culminating as CEO for Europe at Morgan Stanley. She now uses her experience to help top leaders advance their organizations.
Make failure your friend. Jen Glantz was mentored by an 86-year old man named Ray in the back of a library in New York City, seeing him almost every weekend for two years. Ray started off her first session by asking Jen to tell him how she failed that week. Jen was dumbfounded but accepted the challenge. She then began structuring her work around this list. “So many awesome things have happened in my life because I’ve aimed to fail at them first and found out that I was successful, I failed, but didn’t give up,” shares Jen. “After revising my strategy, I started seeing that it’s not so bad to fail and so crucial to take that risk.”
Jen Glantz is an author, a speaker, and the founder of Bridesmaid for Hire.
Vulnerability in Leadership. Vulnerability is not just a response to a situation, it is also an important and widely respected approach used by successful and highly revered leaders. Jennifer DaSilva recently spoke to Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, had some simple yet poignant advice: be real.
“I used to memorize my speeches,” shares Reshma.” I assumed people would think I was smart, however I wasn’t connecting with people. I wasn’t moving people. That was a huge lesson. I have evolved as a public speaker and now speak from the heart. Sometimes I make up words, and a lot of the time I mispronounce words. A lot of us suffer from impostor syndrome. I wasn’t focused enough on being me and being authentic. People are moved by people who are real.”
Girls Who Code is a national non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology. Through its Summer Immersion programs and clubs, Girls Who Code is leading the movement to inspire, educate, and equip young women with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.
One of my favorite concepts from this theme is the fact that vulnerability and trust go hand in hand. Remaining behind a façade, or putting on an act, is often transparent and off-putting. Being vulnerable doesn’t have to be about oversharing personal business or diverging from any and all maintenance of composure. You can be a private person with professional boundaries, and still reap the benefits of vulnerability. Admitting you don’t know how to do something will lead you to the help you need to learn, while forging ahead under the guise that you can do it all is a recipe for disaster. Considering that you and everyone around you are simply flawed humans trying to do their best will foster a compassionate environment people need and will appreciate you for. If you think of the best boss, teacher or leader you’ve ever had, I’m willing to bet the common trait was not how they hit their numbers or quotas, but how you connected with them on a personal level, and how they considered your individual needs and worked with you accordingly. Leveraging the power of vulnerability will result in you being remembered in the same way as those you think of so fondly.
Lead image: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
About the author
Kristy Wallace is the CEO of Ellevate Network and is responsible for executing Ellevate Network’s mission to close the gender achievement gap in business by providing professional women with a global community to lean on and learn from. She directs the Network’s staff, is responsible for business growth and strategy, and works closely with Ellevate’s Chapter Leaders, Business Partners, and Champions to further Ellevate’s impact.
This article includes contributions from Jennifer DaSilva, president of Berlin Cameron and founder of Girl Brands Do It Better.