Leading with Vulnerability

Jared Mabry, Chief Information Officer at HCA Healthcare UK

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Since last March, the UK has been either in nationwide lockdown or under more severe regional restrictions. These have dictated everything from where people can travel, to what reasons you can leave your home, and how people may interact (or not) with one another while outside. Restaurants have been shut down to all but takeaway or delivery orders, entertainment venues shuttered, and only essential shops have remained open. On a personal note, having watched the entirety of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Apple TV+, Peacock, and HBO Max as well as clearing a good chunk of my reading list, teaching my English Bulldog new tricks (his best trick by far is falling asleep and it’s adorable), and after being inspired by an outdoor survival show trying to teach myself how to make a fire in my back garden with only flint and tinder (don’t worry, I had no chance of burning myself because I had no chance of actually making a fire in the first place)...needless to say, I, and I expect most of the country, have run out of things to do.

To those who have visited London before, the hustle and bustle that is a hallmark of this incredible city have been replaced with an eerie stillness that reverberates into a deafening silence when standing in typically busy places like Piccadilly Circus or London Bridge. While the crowds are gone, so are the personal interactions that we take for granted on a daily basis with friends and family, colleagues, and acquaintances alike. Over the past year countless holidays, birthdays, and special occasions have been spent apart due to restrictions limiting travel and people interacting outside of their bubbles. From a work perspective, hundreds of thousands of people have had to learn how to work almost full time from home, some businesses have been forced to shut down with the potential of never reopening, and those who remain open are faced with the task of defining a new strategy to survive the digital tsunami that has become the staple of a Post-Pandemic economy. All of this however, pales in comparison to the 120K people who have lost their lives to COVID-19 in the United Kingdom since the pandemic began.

It’s with this backdrop I have been reminded multiple times of a valuable lesson over the past year. Life can sometimes be overwhelming, work can sometimes be overwhelming, and that can sometimes be really hard to deal with. And that’s OK. I have learned to value the vulnerability in the conversations I have with my colleagues and team members above anything else. It’s not just the shared understanding and acknowledgement of our current circumstances, but it’s an openness and desire to share their stories and in turn hear yours that has been eye opening. It’s eye opening because there is a school of thought that vulnerability is a weakness, especially in leaders, but to those who subscribe to that ideology I can only hope you have the opportunity to experience just how powerful it can be to share your story with someone else. Not only do you build a solid foundation of trust, but you build strong working relationships that so often yield unstoppable teams. 

The vulnerability that inspires open-hearted leadership is at the core of what it means to be a Genuine Leader. Back in April, Doug Sundheim, wrote an article for Harvard Business Review discussing leadership through the pandemic. The whole article is worth a read, but I want to leave you with his closing thoughts, “In the weeks and months ahead, leaders need to move beyond themselves and stand in other people’s shoes. Endure challenges on others’ behalf. Be open and vulnerable. Experiment with ways of offering communication and support. Trust that caring and open-hearted leadership will not only pay off now but also reap rewards well into the future.”

Global CIO Institute

Administrator, GB Intelligence Ltd

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