Pauline M. Voortman is a ‘reflective practitioner’. She works as an associate trainer and consultant for Bureau Zuidema and The Influence Company, specializing in trust in organizations. She has experienced that when she asks people about trust, people start talking about distrust. She compares trust to clean air: it can get polluted. She uses the inauguration speech by the new King Willem-Alexander as a case study of trust.
Trust and vulnerability are related things according to Voortman. When someone puts their trust into someone else, that person makes themselves vulnerable. But this is not what leaders focus on; they focus on measurements, the so-called hard facts. That’s not enough according to Voortman: we have to ask sincere questions about relations and context. This sincere attention goes into deeper layers. Feelings that make us vulnerable.
Vulnerability feels disconcerting. Exposing emotions is like losing control. Ethologist Frans de Waal says that the alpha male cannot afford to show vulnerability among his fellow primates. The same holds for managers: at the top, they cannot afford to show their vulnerability.
Voortman argues that we need to start embracing vulnerability. This is the way to create trust in organizations. Be courageous: embrace vulnerability. But her message is not only for leaders, it’s also for those being lead. These people have to be courageous too and choose the leaders that are willing to embrace vulnerability.
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