Emotional Intelligence and Vulnerability

Emotional Intelligence and Vulnerability

Emotional Intelligence and Vulnerability

While considering this blog post and my upcoming presentations during the Greystar Members Only Leasing Retreat this week, I cannot get vulnerability out of my mind.  As I prepared and reviewed my presentation, I saw I included “be vulnerable” on page twelve, bullet number six.  Perhaps it deserves a page of its own somewhere more prominent and here’s why.

I was at my baby brother’s four-day retirement extravaganza in Washington, D.C. last week.  It was a great reunion as our family traveled from throughout North America to join in celebrating his many career accomplishments.  On the first evening, there was a formal dinner full of presentations, awards and even a roast.  Many people spoke, including my brother, his team members and colleagues.  It was funny, it was tear-filled, it was amazing.  And while it was interesting for me to learn what my brother’s latest achievements were, I was struck by what one man said and I can’t get it out of my head.  He shared how my brother pushed and challenged him and pointed out when he didn’t think he knew what he was talking about which, ironically, turned out simply to be regarding a certain expression on his face.  He shared how my brother got him a promotion.  A high ranking, very accomplished military officer shared his story in front of 200 people, some of whom could determine his future career success.  I admired his honesty.  However, if truth be told, I also wondered why he was sharing so extensively regarding his weaknesses.  I didn’t learn until the next day when I met him again that he was hand-picked for the role on my brother’s team with less experience and less rank than two others in line for the job.   My brother obviously recognized his greatness and this man was clearly moved when explaining how much my brother’s leadership and guidance meant to him.  On my flight home, I started researching vulnerability.  The first thing that popped up in my search was a bold statement from an article in Entrepreneur Magazine written by guest writer Angela Kambouris, “being vulnerable is the boldest act of leadership.”

It was at this moment I clearly understood the full extent of what the guy at the dinner was doing.  He was simply being vulnerable.  In high-powered Washington, D.C., home of the Commander in Chief, home of the Pentagon and home of this man who chose to be vulnerable during a dinner presentation of VIP’s.



Just exactly what does “vulnerable” mean? 

It means being human.  It’s having the courage to share your weaknesses.  It’s deepening your relationships and connectivity to others by being open and honest.  It’s admitting you don’t have the answer every time.  It shows a high level of emotional intelligence to be vulnerable, especially in front of an influential crowd.  It demonstrates leadership.  According to author and speaker Brene Brown during a TED Talk, “vulnerability is at the center of all progress.”

Vulnerability is another one of the critically important soft skills we simply can’t ignore.  According to David K. Williams in an article written for Forbes, “the best leaders are vulnerable.”  He continues, “vulnerability is a strength.  Every leader has vulnerability.  The great leaders have the awareness to realize this fact.  They also recognize that showing their vulnerability is a sign of courage and strength.”

Here’s my confession.  I was uncomfortable at first when the military guy stood up at my brother’s retirement dinner and showed his vulnerability.  I thought, why here, why now?  But I was wrong.  It showed great intelligence, great strength and confidence to stand up and say what he said.  And to sincerely show his gratitude and respect to my brother for recognizing his capabilities and leadership, particularly when two others were in line for the position for which he was selected.

Unfortunately, I missed an opportunity after the dinner to shake this man’s hand and thank him for his open and honest speech.  Because for a moment, I was uncomfortable with his story.  After I really thought about it further, his openness and candor reminded me just exactly how important it is in leadership to show vulnerability.  I will not forget this a-ha moment, an important real time reminder of this lesson.  As I reflect on my experiences, many of my best moments have resulted when I allowed myself to simply be vulnerable.  And it shows strength not weakness to share it.  In closing, I say thank you to the guy who reminded me how important it is in business and life to be strong enough, secure enough, courageous and confident enough to be vulnerable.

Are you ready to exemplify the very best in leadership? Contact me to learn how we can, together, perfect your business etiquette and social skills to ensure you will reach your full potential and achieve your biggest goals. 








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Mary Williams

Mary is a business etiquette and protocol expert for executives and rising stars who want to unleash their best self and achieve their goals. A veteran of the C-Suite, Mary is a passionate advocate for utilizing the best skills in business etiquette and protocol to ensure meaningful actions for success in business and life. After more than a dozen years in her role as chief of staff, Mary launched her own dream business, Mary Williams, Your First Impression Authority. As a graduate of The American School of Protocol and a certified Business Coach, in addition to working at the highest levels of national and international organizations, Mary understands both the demands and the complexities of maneuvering effectively through business and life.   She is a regular presenter at university business schools, nonprofit organizations, trade association conferences, as well as corporate events. Her mission is to share all she has learned along the way, and in doing so provide effective business coaching to ultimately help people reach their true potential, utilizing distinct techniques and simple steps that guarantee success.

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