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Is being vulnerable in construction a sign of strength?

Construction is a known for being a tough place to work, filled with alpha males; women still only comprise 11% of the construction workforce. The stereotype of what it takes to be successful is an individual that fills a room with their presence, in voice and stature. I have met many of these individuals (both men and women) throughout my career. Many of these "boisterous" individuals, we'll call them here, are not leaders I would follow and I don't want my children to learn from them as an example of what a leader should be.

I was even told by my father, a 30-year industry veteran, and a leader in his own right, that you can only throw your hardhat once. While this was a good lesson in the importance of managing your emotions during conflict, there was also the inherent message that it was ok to throw your hardhat in the first place.

I have also met leaders that didn't need to be the loudest in the room. These leaders use a more quiet, thoughtful approach. They face a challenge head on, but also admit when they aren't sure on a direction or that they were struggling with a decision. Some might think of this as weak, but I disagree.

Brené Brown teaches us that vulnerability is a sign of strong leadership and that vulnerability is defined as taking action when there is “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”

But what about in construction?

The emotional exposure that Brown references causes many to take pause. Or to even resist taking action in the first place.

Think about receiving employee engagement survey feedback for the first time. You may be asking yourself: What will it say? What if it is negative? What if I am called out as creating a negative workplace?

Asking these questions is brave.

You are exposing yourself to what could be and admitting (at least to yourself) that the feedback may not be great. The challenge then, is to not let them prevent you from moving forward. If you are asking these questions you are already on the right path, but if you let yourself stop there you will be continuing the stereotype of this industry, one thrown hardhat at a time.

When you step back, and accept the feedback (whatever it may be) you are contributing to a new culture, one where vulnerability is a sign of strong leadership.


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