I love when Jacaranda season is upon us here in Brisbane. There is this moment as Winter merges into Spring when the Jacaranda starts losing its leaves and being vulnerable. You can hear the crunch of hundreds of tiny branches under your feet. Then, within the blink of an eye, we wake up one morning and the tree has exploded with bright purple/blue flowers. The flowers are so full that the branches are weighed down by the sheer quantity of them. I have a large Jacaranda tree in my backyard that overlooks my home studio. I have flashes of purples and blues that distract my eyes away from my computer screen. The trees beckon me to come outside and soak in all its loveliness.
Around the same time of year, Brisbane storm season begins. Inevitably, every year the same cycle plays out. We experience a huge downfall of rain, and the Jacaranda tree discards a heap of flowers that fall to the grass below. I remember when I first moved here from north Queensland, feeling so disappointed that we didn’t have longer to enjoy the flowers ON the tree before they were forced onto the ground by the rain. But over the years I have had the pleasure of witnessing the other perspective of the Jacaranda tree. I started appreciating the flowers on the ground, as they formed a delicate blanket of blue and purple, contrasting with the crisp green grass underneath. I realised that they were just as beautiful as those still on the tree, if not more vibrant and they hold your attention for longer.
Why Jacaranda Trees?
YOU and I are a lot like the Jacaranda tree, especially as a leader in your own business or as part of an organisation. Investing so much energy and time into building your reputation, strengthening your brand and focusing your influence to make a difference. Building your skills, taking notice of your body language and what you wear, and continuing to educate yourself so you can stay relevant in your position. You have a “nice” photo of you as your profile photo throughout your online presence.
You do this and much more, so you can communicate your immense value to your ideal audience! Soon enough, you become like the Jacaranda tree that when people look up, they see all the gorgeous flowers on display on your branches. Don’t get me wrong, that side of you as a leader is vitally important. However, without the depth of your IP, your presence and the alignment of your vision with your purpose, the rest is pointless.
But when you only look up, focused on the edges of the branches where you BE your best and DO your best, you forget to look down and see all the other parts of you that you assume are “too much” or “not good enough” to share.
There is beauty in the quirks and vulnerability of you
Just like that blanket of Jacaranda flowers spread over the ground, the parts of you that aren’t always valued or put on display, are what I have found to be the most magnetic and most potent influential qualities of leaders. (If you aren’t convinced, then take a look at Robin Williams the actor. The ultimate muse for total self-expression!) You’ve been holding back parts of yourself since you were a teenager. Not drawing attention to the parts of you that you ‘believe’ aren’t of value. Alternatively, maybe you think that these draw attention to you for all the wrong reasons.
Whatever your experience has been, I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. I mean that with all the greatest sincerity and compassion in the world.
You are mistaken
It’s your quirks and sensitivities and challenges and unique abilities that will draw people to you.
It’s your realness, your vulnerability and your uncensored FULL self-expression that will draw people to you like a magnet!
Meanwhile, everyone else around you is also too busy showing off the same tree branches and beautiful flower displays. Despite this, they all know deep down the universal truth that they also have the same blanket of flowers on the ground – if only we allowed others to see. There is this lingering ‘knowing-ness’ that we all have, that well-polished leaders are not always like that. You just have to look at the strong reactions of people to different political leaders throughout the world. The difference between those politicians who show vulnerability and those who ‘big note’ themselves.
Similarly, when we lead with the well-polished, strong and well-put-together parts of us, our connections are yearning for us to show our humanness. To show that we have similar parts to us that we question, hide, and for some even ridicule. It’s our connection through the vulnerabilities of our quirks that builds trust and a collective spirit of us all being on the same journey.
There are parts of me that will always remain unnamable, messy, and reckless; but I refuse to apologise for it anymore.
Vulnerability leads to full self-expression, which ultimately unlocks the ability to be playful, creative and disruptive! As a leader, we want to lead with and inspire innovation and change that makes a difference. The key is being vulnerable.
The Vulnerable Leader is both powerful and relatable.
Truth and transparency become integral parts of how the leader being vulnerable can connect. As this world becomes busier and tapped into AI and technology, people are already looking for greater transparency and honesty. It is what will bring us all together for common purposes. It will be the groundwork of collective movements and inspired change. It’s those beautiful blue and purple flowers scattered on the ground that will be the things that join us together.
We can find ourselves in others.
Our clients and teams can find themselves in their vulnerabilities!
- Absolute honesty with yourself. What parts of you do you hold back? Why? Start a dialogue with yourself. Get clear about what you want to share, and what is the value in sharing with .thers?
- Keep in check your mindset and self-talk to resist playing cautiously. Your immediate internal response will be to withdraw and protect yourself.
- Test the waters, start somewhere and then get playful with it all. Treat your vulnerability with lightness. Don’t get too serious with yourself and others.
- Approach vulnerability as a way of serving your clients and your audience. You are bringing value to their lives by opening yourself up and showing them what is possible.