Is Vulnerability the New Confidence?

To be more authentically confident, what you really need is to be more authentically vulnerable. You might think that sounds crazy, but it really works!  Here’s how.

If you are like most people, you want to be more confident.  There are many ways to be more confident, but there’s one you’ve likely not considered: choose authentic vulnerability and multiply it with whatever confidence you have.  When you create synergy between these amazing opposing forces you find a new power source, one that awakens energy, deeper connections, and increased ability to call on your unknown potential.  In other words, Confident Vulnerability™, one of the lead indicators of Interdependent Leadership (the most effective leadership approach of our day).

Mareo McCracken, the renown revenue leader at Movemedical is an Interdependent Leader, and he describes operating with both confidence and vulnerability together like this:

“Trying to be more confident doesn’t work, especially in the moment. Confidence is not something you turn off and on. Being the most confident person in the room is not about never showing weakness. Confidence is something you feel because you are at peace with the person you have become. Confidence is knowing your actions are aligned with your beliefs and you control your reaction to every situation. True confidence is evident when your faults are open for everyone to see… yet you still take action.”   

This is not just true confidence.  It is true Confident Vulnerability.

There is a big difference between appearing confident and having authentic confidence, between feeling vulnerable and having authentic vulnerability.  The mountain-top power-poser, the one who appears to be so invulnerable, is often just a poser.  But authentic confidence paired with authentic vulnerability is courageous, risk-taking, and involves Unconditional Curiosity™ without judgment. It isn’t afraid of uncertainty and knows the probability of failure yet tries anyway.  Confident Vulnerability recognizes that you make mistakes and are flawed but also holds that you are amazing, capable, and worthy just the same.  It is anchored in knowing that your value is not tied to any external condition, scorecard, or validation.  It just is – and this knowledge is one reason you can be comfortable and confident as you also stand in authentic vulnerability.

Confident Vulnerability allows you to say to yourself: “I know what I am.  I know what I’m not.  Both are okay.”   It moors you in the quiet confidence felt through your strengths, while simultaneously holding weakness, mistakes, and failures as part of your beautiful humanness.  It reframes weakness as a different way to serve others (every bit as valuably as you can through your strengths), as long as you’re not afraid of your weakness, you open yourself, and let others inform your perspectives and support you where you are less strong.  Confident Vulnerability lifts others to feel their value as they serve you, and lets you stop judging yourself by the presence of weakness.  It also sends out a powerful sonar-like signal, one that reflects acceptance of whatever messy humanness you might encounter, one that deepens others’ trust in you and in themselves. 

It’s entirely possible that you might find a beautiful combination found in the tension of these opposites, one that leads directly to releasing the untapped potential within you and those around you.  It bypasses all negatively-conditioned neural networks because the compelling draw of this Confident Vulnerability is that it gives rise to the very best possible that is available to you.  It is a view that offers hope that the very vulnerability you are afraid of revealing also exposes your deepest capability and most brilliant untapped possibilities.  What if this were true?  What if you let yourself operate from this belief?  How would things be different?

You might find the simple miracle that Mitch Albom described in Tuesdays with Morrie:

“Have I told you about the tension of opposites? he says.

The tension of opposites?

Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted.  A tension of opposites is like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle.

Sounds like a wrestling match, I say.

A wrestling match?  He laughs. Yes, you could describe life that way.

So which side wins, I ask?

Which side wins? He smiles at me, the crinkled eyes, the crooked teeth. Love wins. Love always wins.”

Morrie is right.  Love is the best ways to describe how Confident Vulnerability feels when you finally find it.

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy – the founder and CEO of People Acuity and principal author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living and Choose to See You – in collaboration with People Acuity co-thought leaders, Lisa Gregory and Steve Jeffs. It includes excerpts from their soon-to-be released book on Interdependent Leadership.  DeAnna is a Top 100 Global Coaching Leader who has provided keynotes and leadership development experiences in 32 countries.  Learn more about Interdependent Leadership and download the new Interdependent Leadership eBook – at www.peopleacuity.com.

Warning! Your Company Culture Can Destroy Your Business (Unless You Understand One Thing)

Today’s “Quit Rate” – the rate at which employees up and leave their jobs – is at an all-time high.  In fact, according to Gallup, it’s at the highest it’s been in fifteen years, and the number has been unchanged for the past eleven months.  This makes it the longest flat-line period since the government began recording this statistic nearly two decades ago. 

“What’s the biggest reason people leave?” you ask. 

If you answered, “company culture,” you would be right.[1]  People quit people.  They quit teams.  They quit bosses, and they quit organizations where toxicity is high.

Unfortunately, if you are like 83% of all individuals today, your company culture is toxic enough to create a near-business implosion.  This is evidenced not just by the “Quit Rate,” which involves employees simply up and leaving the company, but by the overall turnover rates, which includes both voluntary and involuntary turnover in an organization.  In case you were wondering, that number is sitting at 23% in North America,[2] (up from 14% in 2014).[3]

Here is some additional evidence you might want to consider.  According to a 2018 People Acuity global study of 1,800 people at all levels in the organization, 83% are functioning at moderate or high levels of toxicity:

  • So much so that the chances that people will try to proactively resolve their own situations (rather than leave) is less than 5%. 
  • The chances that they would feel in any way, shape, or form engaged in their work is less than 4%. 
  • What is equally troubling is that there is less than a 3% likelihood that people would feel any sense of belonging, loyalty, or connection to their team/organization.

If your company even remotely comes close to being among the 83% of all individuals who have concerns about toxic company culture, how long do you suppose it will be before your business becomes one of the four in ten predicted in 2018 by J.P. Morgan to fail in the coming decade?  Your company culture can create this kind of a business implosion if it is not rectified. 

Companies that understand this have gone to great lengths to create cultural excellence, knowing full well that the organization’s bottom line can never grow faster or farther than the company culture has grown.  Culture is either an inhibitor, or a multiplier, of growth. 

Evidence of this comes in the form of top-tier U.S. organizations that have won the Malcolm-Baldridge organizational excellence award.  This requires winners to have built intentional cultural excellence that is aligned to business strategy.  Those notable organizations that have sustained this alignment, winning the award twice, have seen a median revenue growth of 92%.[1]  This could be you. 


If your company even remotely comes close to being among the 83% of all individuals who have concerns about toxic company culture, how long do you suppose it will be before your business becomes one of the four in ten predicted in 2018 by J.P. Morgan to fail in the coming decade?  Your company culture can create this kind of a business implosion if it is not rectified. 

Companies that understand this have gone to great lengths to create cultural excellence, knowing full well that the organization’s bottom line can never grow faster or farther than the company culture has grown.  Culture is either an inhibitor, or a multiplier, of growth. 

Evidence of this comes in the form of top-tier U.S. organizations that have won the Malcolm-Baldridge organizational excellence award.  This requires winners to have built intentional cultural excellence that is aligned to business strategy.  Those notable organizations that have sustained this alignment, winning the award twice, have seen a median revenue growth of 92%.[1]  This could be you. 

[1] https://www.gallup.com/workplace/260564/heard-quit-rate-win-war-talent.aspx?utm_source=workplace-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WorkplaceNewsletter_July_072319&utm_content=keepyourtoptalent-CTA-5&elqTrackId=5225ea3a116f4be49d3f9ad1859f732f&elq=45c43c5f4b374437b14e42322e7ae46f&elqaid=1960&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=443

[2] https://www.imercer.com/ecommerce/articleinsights/North-American-Employee-Turnover-Trends-and-Effects

[3] https://www.worldatwork.org/workspan/articles/workplace-turnover-rates-on-the-rise

Leadership is Broken

Not the people in positions of leadership. It is the concept of leadership, as it is enacted within organisations that is broken. If you’re looking for evidence, you don’t have to look any further than the growing toxicity present in organisations today.

In a recent study by People Acuity, 83% of respondents described their organisations as having moderately or highly toxic cultures. More than this, a full 50% rated their organisations at the highest level of toxicity possible: 10 on a 10-point scale!  When moderate or high toxicity was present, proactivity, engagement, and connection were shown to be virtually non-existent. What does this say about leadership? 

If great leadership does not create toxic cultures, and toxic cultures are what we are seeing, then the current approaches to leadership are inadequate – broken.

Given that toxicity is very much present, change is clearly very much needed.

So, what holds us back from shifting up?

It is common today to think of a company as a large machine. People are the parts and how they work is defined through systems and processes. Managers observe operations and ensure that the parts do their job. When everyone does their jobs, the machine is successful. But what happens when the machine isn’t working quite right? 

If you said “toxicity” you would be right!

In the company-as-machine model leadership often ends up focussed on fixing failures, finding fault, and assigning blame for the breakdown. When management becomes fixated on this, failure becomes more of a yardstick than success. In reality, KPI’s become KFI’s – Key Failure Indicators – as more attention is paid to preventing failure than to truly enhancing performance.

How do we solve this?

The answer is almost too simple: change the model.  It is the company-as-machine model that creates all kinds of toxic dependence (victimization), independence (siloism), and codependence (us vs. them) inside of organizations. It divides, alienates, and separates people, preventing them from truly optimizing and synergizing together.

What is needed is more Interdependent Leadership.

Interdependent Leadership is based upon an understanding that companies are more like organisms than machines. It recognises that all individuals within an organisation are evolving agents who make their own decisions based upon their understanding of themselves, others, and their situations. As their insight grows, so does their ability to contribute to the growth of the organisation.

Interdependent Leadership empowers and aligns individuals to leverage their own strengths to create their own Work Joy, Team Connection, and Proactive Accountability. Interdependent Leaders recognise that they have a limited view of reality and that part of their role is to increase individual awareness of the situation and of others, including what is in their blind spot. They see how important this is if individuals and teams are to truly flourish.

Importantly, Interdependent Leadership can be initiated by anyone in the organization as it does not need hierarchical or positional power to have a positive influence. It recognises that inside an organisation, both tasks and relationships impact each other, and therefore need to be addressed together and balanced effectively. Interdependent Leaders understand that without this, organisations default to task, increasing toxicity.

You may be curious to know the degree to which Interdependent Leadership is present in your organization. If so, there is good news! You can take a free assessment that measures the precursors of Interdependent Leadership. It will help you evaluate the degree to which they are present for you (check out the assessment here, or you can read more here). Perhaps you can be an influencer to help shift the broken concept of leadership.

This article was written by Steve Jeffs – a Top 50 Global Coach who holds a Master Coach Certification (MCC) and a Doctorate in Business Administration – in collaboration with People Acuity thought leaders DeAnna Murphy and Lisa Gregory. Steve is on the faculty for CTI, is a former board member for the ICF, and has led People Acuity’s research for the past nine years. Currently based in the United Arab Emirates, he is the Chief Innovation Officer for People Acuity and a co-author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living.

The Best Kept Leadership Secret of Our Day

In a UAE-based multi-national company, two arch-rival senior leaders found themselves in an all-out fist fight that ended only through police intervention.   One Egyptian man, typically known for his soft-spoken relationship-orientation, felt he had been pushed too far by his hard-driving, task-oriented Palestinian opposite.  Neither man cared that their inverse perspectives had the potential for bringing amazing synergistic solutions.  In the moment, all that mattered was being right and defending the only position that made sense from each of their perspective. 

In so many ways, this experience is a metaphor for one of the greatest business challenges of our day.  There is a duel of sorts that plays out every day in organizations around the globe.  It is a struggle between task and relationship orientation, and the ever-present challenge to balance these competing forces.  Neither focus is wrong or bad.  Either task or relationship orientation, without the positive synergy created through the other, will implode your business.  You’ve likely seen it with your own eyes. 

Over-Emphasis on Task or Relationship

Consider what the task-relationship imbalance looks like.  Here are some of the outcomes that will surely emerge when there is too much importance placed on one side of the equation or the other:

Too Much Task-Orientation Leads To: Too Much Relationship-Orientation Creates:
Employee exhaustion, stress, burn-outHigh toxicity and blameDeep disengagement and disconnectionPoor retention (employees who become depleted or feel under-valued leave)Diminished productivityNegative financial impact InefficiencyAll-talk-no-action syndromeFailure to hit goals in a timely wayBlame and frustration (toxicity)Turnover (high achievers who get sick of falling short of targets leave)Negative financial performance

As you study the outcomes, you can see how the task-relationship imbalance leads to frustration, depletion, poor performance, and delivering a half-hearted effort.  In a day when one in five employees leave the organization on average (see infographic below), and 91% of all Millennials expect to vacate their jobs in less than two years, business leaders must become expert at not just finding the right task-relationship balance, but learning how to multiply the unique powers associated with each.[1] 

Leaders who fail to master this balancing act between task and relationship are doomed to repeat the destructive patterns that permeate many businesses today across the globe.  This includes things like high toxicity and blame and the kind of perpetual disengagement that destroy businesses, spills over into families, and drastically hurts our economy. [2]  Learning to effectively balance task and relationship has become an urgent necessity in order to win the hearts and minds of people and succeed in this new economy.


Interdependent Leadership: The Best Kept Leadership Secret

Interdependent Leadership is defined as, “an emerging approach to leadership that evolves and completes foundational leadership competencies by redesigning the task/relationship dynamic.” It builds upon and expands the positive impact of leaders’ strategy, decision-making, execution, and influencing to increase competitive advantage, improve performance and relationships, and win the hearts and minds of people. 

Imagine that you could multiply the power of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Crucial Conversations, and Strengths-Based and Situational Leadership all at the same time.  What would it look like to see these applied and operating together?  You would see new behaviors and skills like Unconditional Curiosity replacing judgment, ICU Acknowledgement instead of blame, and Feedforward rather than demoralizing feedback.  You would see more Confident Vulnerability and measurable increases in Work Joy, Proactive Accountability, and the kind of Team Connection that ignites optimal team and organizational performance.  Interdependent leadership heals people as well as the bottom line. 

Julie Simpkins, a one-time COO for a Midwest-based healthcare company, described it like this: “The experience of growing from Independence to Interdependence has been both the most challenging and meaningful leadership leaps I have ever made.  Interdependent Leadership has transformed how I show up as a leader and our company will never be the same.” 

Truly, Interdependent Leadership is the best kept leadership secret of our day.

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy – the founder and CEO of People Acuity and principal author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living and Choose to See You – in collaboration with People Acuity co-thought leaders, Lisa Gregory and Steve Jeffs. DeAnna is a Top 100 Global Coaching Leader who has provided keynotes and leadership development experiences in 32 countries.  Learn more about Interdependent Leadership and download the new Interdependent Leadership eBook – at www.peopleacuity.com.

[1] Sources: Forbes, Compdata, SHRM, OC Tanner, and Deloitte.

[2] Sources: InfoPro Learning, Gallup, People Acuity, Scoro, Udemy