How Vulnerability Can Aid in Your Allyship
By now, most of us have heard about the importance of allyship and how being an ally empowers others and drives success across your org. A quick web search will pull up countless definitions of “allyship” and articles on how to be a better ally. But how can you confidently become an ally in your daily life without potentially making mistakes?
Spoiler Alert: You can’t.
But you can fumble your way through growth like so many others by being vulnerable, asking for feedback from those you wish to empower, and taking potential criticism with grace. As I mention in my chapter “Leave ‘em Better than You Found ‘em” in Together We Rise, there are no shortcuts to growth. The only way to grow more confident (and thus more comfortable in your own skin) is to try new things. And I mean really try.
At Engage Boston 2022, we kicked off our conference with an allyship event where we invited a few of the most successful women in the industry and a male ally to share their experiences and perspectives. All of the C-Suite women talked about the importance of being your own champion and communicating your career goals with your leaders. Even still, all of them shared that they still deal with imposter syndrome.
When we began our roundtables to continue the conversation, a white male exec looked at me and asked what “imposter syndrome” meant. This bigwig was visibly unsure of himself during our entire table discussion. But he chose to be vulnerable by asking a simple question, was thoughtful and purposeful with his conversation, and even talked about being a better champion for his wife who just started a new job and was dealing with, unbeknownst to him — you guessed it — imposter syndrome.
We hear a lot about the importance of including women and marginalized groups at the table (because it only makes sense!). But moments like that one are my personal reminder of the importance of including those who may live in privilege every day but recognize the imbalance and truly want to be an ally.
I gently nudged him and said, “Every woman here could use a guy like you in their corner who considers her perspective in awkward situations and champions for her.” He nodded slightly but didn’t say a word.
That evening, I was standing with a group of execs at an event I was anxiously spearheading. One of the fellas commented on how I sure know how to throw a party just as the same exec from the allyship event joined our group. Before I could say a word, he chimed in with, “Kendra knows how to own a room and drive one helluva discussion too. Bullhorn is lucky to have her.”
In that brief moment, he showed up as my ally. As I headed back home, I realized that by just showing up and expressing genuine interest that day — and then giving me a bit of encouragement in front of his peers the next — this man impacted me in a way that goes deeper than appreciating his effort. He reminded me of the duty I feel to make an effort to identify allies, include them in the conversation, and answer their questions along the way.
But it all begins with an individual’s decision to actively try to be an ally, potentially fumble, step outside of their comfort zone, and ask questions along the way. By doing so, every ally — new and old — has an incredible opportunity to help our industry reach new levels of understanding and thus, success, and set an example for the younger ones watching.
That, my friends, is the Power of People. And it’s something I aim to encourage each and every time I lead with vulnerability.