Fierce And Vulnerable At The Same Time: Killer Leadership Combo

Whenever I use the word ‘fierce’ in the context of leadership I get raised eyebrows and looks of shock. In coaching parlance, the definition of fierce is: intense or ardent discussion. It has nothing to do with meanness or anger or doing damage. Engaging in a fierce conversation is an act of kindness. We call it fierce because it requires courage to step beyond the barriers disguised as harmless clichés and enter into true dialogue that builds understanding. It means talking about stuff that matters.

Naming the elephant in the room is where coaching and great leadership begin.

Where does vulnerability enter the picture? When we name the problem we have to be ready to discover the role we’ve played in creating it or in allowing it to continue. It may feel good and right to point out where we were wronged or let down but this is actually destructive behaviour if the conversation ends there.  In my experience, bringing a sense of curiosity into play at this point helps team members gain perspective and think creatively about solutions. This includes coaching the team toward verbalizing what they could have done differently to prevent the problem in the first place. In the absence of strong leadership, a group can easily confuse free speech (tearing down) with effective problem solving (building up).

Anyone can point out what’s gone wrong or needs to be corrected. Great leaders don’t stop there; they pull their followers along the path to accountability and solution. That’s high octane performance.


4 Replies to “Fierce And Vulnerable At The Same Time: Killer Leadership Combo”

  1. As a facilitator of Fierce Conversations I can’t help but wonder if you’ve read this book by Susan Scott. Your interpretation of the word “fierce” is so similar. It’s amazing how people immediately assume the most negative connotation of the word, especially when it can be so powerful and positive. Love your post! Thanks for sharing.


    1. Hi Jamie,
      Absolutely LOVE “Fierce Conversations” by Susan Scott. I bought it in 2003 and often find myself going back to it.

      I’m so glad you took the time to leave a comment. It led me to your blog, What Would You Say. I really enjoyed the leadership comparison between the gym experience and the show you attended.

      Great stuff.


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