Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is the Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup, and an international authority in psychological profiling, talent management, leadership development, and people analytics. He is also Professor of Business Psychology at University College London and Columbia University. Amy Edmondson is an author and the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School. Her work on teams, psychological safety, and leadership has influenced corporate and academic audiences all over the world, and she was recently honored with the Breakthrough Idea Award by Thinkers50 in 2019. Together, they authored the article “Today’s Leaders Need Vulnerability, Not Bravado” in the Harvard Business Review. They join Marcel Schwantes to talk about the paradox of finding strength in vulnerability.
- Leaders who lead with bravado want to be perceived as tough: they have an aversion to displaying weakness or “soft” emotions and are confident even when they are wrong, according to Dr. Tomas. [8:51]
- Amy says that a characteristic of bravado is an unwillingness to listen to others. As such, bravado-based leadership falls short in situations where science, facts or expertise really matter. “You have to say ‘I’m all-knowing, and I don’t need others’ because that’s the whole idea of being strong,” she says of bravado-based leaders. [10:34]
- Marcel asks them to define vulnerability in their own terms, as the word has undesirable connotations. “To me,” Amy starts, “vulnerability is a simple statement of fact; it just means ‘I am at risk of being wounded.’ If you are a vulnerable leader, you are simply willing to acknowledge reality.” Additionally, vulnerability in leadership allows leaders to be emotionally honest, authentic, and real. [11:39]
- “A BBC journalist once asked me ‘But who wants to follow a leader that says they don’t know?’ And I said, ‘Maybe a rational and mature person,’” Dr. Tomas shares. He explains that those who follow leaders also need to be intelligent and rational enough to understand that difficult challenges may be ahead. [15:58]
- Amy advises leaders to ask for help. You can reach out to the experts on your team and be clear about the assistance you require. Approaching them for help also brings recognition and appreciation for their skills and abilities. [20:26]
- Dr. Tomas comments that leaders with big egos are usually overconfident and deluded; they never take responsibility for their mistakes because they never think they are at fault. Furthermore, they will not apologize. On the flip-side, leaders who are self-critical are more likely to be vulnerable and acknowledge their mistakes. [23:56]
- Vulnerability becomes a weakness when the system or culture you are immersed in does not tolerate displays of openness, kindness, or doubts. In such cultures, doubts or self-criticism are seen as an indication of incompetence. [29:25]
- Marcel asks Amy what some of the most difficult obstacles are for psychological safety. “Leadership bravado is a big one,” she replies. She explains how this stymies building a psychologically safe workplace. [34:11]
- To Amy and Dr. Tomas, leaders display love at work by caring for and connecting with their teams. Love is a transformational, gravitational force that draws people in and enables them to become their best selves. [39:18]
- Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic on LinkedIn | Twitter | Website
- Amy Edmondson on LinkedIn | Twitter | Thinkers50
- HBR Article: Today’s Leaders Need Vulnerability, Not Bravado
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