Vulnerability

If You Want to Be a Successful Entrepreneur, Get Comfortable With Your Vulnerability

Being vulnerable can be scary, but it doesn't mean you're weak.
If You Want to Be a Successful Entrepreneur, Get Comfortable With Your Vulnerability
Image credit: Nancy Honey | Getty Images
Guest Writer
CEO of Ellevate Network
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As a business CEO, I often feel vulnerable. You know the feeling, right? Danger (aka competition, risk, failure) is lurking around every corner, your defenses are down or you don't have all the answers. I struggle with these feelings because in my mind, a strong leader is infallible, unshakeable, all-knowing. And if I am vulnerable, am I a bad leader?

Related: Zola Founder Shan-Lyn Ma Shares How to Collaborate and Conquer Your Biggest Challenges

Ellevate Network and Berlin Cameron partnered up to get to the bottom of this important question. Does vulnerability in leadership signify a bad leader, or do we need to reshape the narrative around the traits that define a strong leader? We asked professional women about their perception of a leader who shows vulnerability on the job. And can you believe that only 4 percent of respondents equate vulnerability with weakness? In fact, 58 percent say that leaders who show vulnerability are authentic and 37 percent say they are relatable.

I wanted to dig into this further. As a leader at Ellevate Network, I recognize my vulnerability every day. I don't have to be always perfect or right; in fact, I'm very comfortable admitting that I don't know the answer. There is always space for team members to offer up a different opinion, and we pride ourselves on an open and respectful dialogue around the business challenges that we're collectively working to solve. I think this approach makes me a more successful leader because ideas and innovation come from everyone on our team, which leads to a deeper sense of employee ownership and engagement.

I've had the great honor of speaking with hundreds of amazing 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 business to success. Vulnerability comes up a lot.

Related: How I Rebooted My Career After Getting Fired -- Twice

Here are some words of wisdom I've learned from top female entrepreneurs Ellevate has had on the podcast.

Say no to the inner critic.

Ariel Hyatt, entrepreneur, author and founder of Cyber PR, believes that women in particular struggle with the naysayer inner critic and decided to take ownership of hers. "I named mine. Mine is called 'little nasty.' And little nasty says, 'You're not pretty enough for this. You're not smart enough for this. Who do you think you are asking people for $50,000 or $15 million?'"

She suggests learning how to control that inner critic. "If you let that voice take over, you're never going to get your dreams."

Related: How Women Can Build Stronger Relationships at Work -- and Actually Boost Their Careers

Embrace your constraints.

Constraints might seem like roadblocks, but they can actually move you toward a breakthrough. To illustrate this point, Whitney Johnson, public speaker and CEO advisor, says that embracing your constraints allows moments of ingenuity and inspiration to shine through. "And if you don't have enough constraints -- if you've got enough time, enough money, enough expertise -- then you actually need to create constraints, because it's the constraints that allow you to move up the curve." We're not always stopping to think that we might need to take a step back in order to propel ourselves forward.

Forgive yourself. No one can do everything perfectly.

On her episode of the podcast, social entrepreneur and changemaker Dee Poku shares, "It's really about being in tune with yourself and finding your process and making it work for you. And the things that you're not good at, you find." But, there's one thing Poku thinks is more important than finding what you're good at. "Above all, I think it's about being forgiving [of yourself]."

Being vulnerable on the job, especially when you are leading a company, might make you doubt yourself -- but in the long run, when you look at it the right way and channel your energy, it will ultimately benefit the business.

For more inspiration from professional women killing it, attend Ellevate Network's Mobilizing the Power of Women Summit on June 21, in-person or online.

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