Xref: Why show vulnerability as a leader?

Of all the adjectives used to describe effective leadership, vulnerabilityis not the one that comes to the forefront of most people’s minds. Communication, confidence, decisiveness, inspiration and strength, of course, but vulnerability?

Now more than ever, leadership vulnerability is seen as one of the key characteristics of leaders around the world, regardless of industry.

We dive deeper into leadership vulnerability below with the help of leadership and recruiting industry experts.

What is Vulnerability?

Some leaders feel that vulnerability can often be passed on as a weakness where you put yourself at risk of being hurt emotionally or physically. You may become susceptible to defeat or to exploitation.

But the fact is, all humans are vulnerable in some way at some point. It’s just part of human nature.

The fact that vulnerability affects us all at some point is the very reason why bravely showing vulnerability should be reframed as a strength. Especially when it comes to leadership, interpersonal skills, and building authentic relationships.

An environment where vulnerability is not tolerated or looked down upon is a toxic environment.

How is vulnerability related to leadership?

In previous generations, leaders were seen as authoritarian figures who would never dream of revealing any weakness to their subordinates.

However, with recent studies on mental health and productivity, coupled with the explosion of new digital skills and generational overlaps, the leadership paradigm is rapidly shifting towards one where understanding and openness are much more valued traits. .

Dr. Brene Brown is a bestselling author, TED Talks speaker, and research professor at the University of Houston who has spent more than two decades analyzing themes such as courage, empathy, shame, and vulnerability.

Dr. Brown strongly believes that effective leadership embraces vulnerability.

“Giving feedback, receiving feedback, solving problems, making ethical decisions, all of these are born out of vulnerability,” she explains.“When we build cultures at work where there’s zero tolerance for vulnerability. Where perfectionism and armor are rewarded and needed, you can’t have difficult conversations. They’re not productive.“No vulnerability, no creativity. No tolerance for failure, no innovation. It’s as simple as that. If you’re not ready to fail, you can’t innovate. If you don’t aren’t ready to build a vulnerable culture you can’t create. “A leader is someone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.”

Vulnerability in leadership is the ability to admit what you know, but also what you don’t know, and then trust those you manage to fill the void.

Leading with vulnerability is a concept Thoughtexchange People Manager Alex Chapple focuses on as part of her professional development.

“An interesting personal development tip I’ve been focusing on lately is vulnerability,” said Chapple. “Leading with vulnerability and being able to say what you know and what you don’t know, reaching out to teams to find out what they think about what’s going on, and being ready to respond to what you hear while keeping an eye on what you bring to the conversation.”

What are the benefits of vulnerable leadership?

Twelve associates from the Forbes Communications Council recently explored the benefits of vulnerability as a leader and why more managers and executives should embrace this notion.

  • It makes you more relevant: For someone to be a true leader, the organization must admire them and be inspired by them. But it is equally essential that people identify with the leader. Vulnerability makes leaders approachable and thus forms a stronger emotional bond.
  • Gain trust: People trust genuine people. Without trust, employees don’t stay with companies long and customers don’t remain loyal advocates.
  • Demonstrates strength of character: Showing vulnerability and owning our experiences demonstrates strength of character and emotional intelligence, both of which are important qualities for leaders.
  • Inspires creativity: Leaders who accept their vulnerabilities — whether making a mistake or struggling with the solution to a problem — inspire cultures of creativity and increased contribution.
  • Transforms you into a modern leader: The greatest leaders open up and are the kind of modern leaders people love to work for and work with.
  • Enables continuous growth: Not only does vulnerability make you appear more human and approachable to your team, but being vulnerable will allow you to grow in leaps and bounds.
  • Promotes psychological safety: Teams that feel psychologically safe perform better than those that are not.
  • Connection by authenticity: Being a true leader doesn’t require you to always be right. Leaders are human, and so are the teams that work with them. By being vulnerable, you will truly connect with your teams because you will be authentic.
  • Enable shared ownership: When team members recognize that their own contribution and leadership are valued, it fosters a sense of shared ownership of the organization’s success.
  • Invite others to help: Leaders who give the impression that they are always right and infallible run the risk of becoming isolated and losing touch with their workforce.
  • Build stronger teams: A vulnerable leader may admit that they don’t have all the answers and when they need help. This builds trust between you and your team and can create a powerful connection.
  • Made for great content: It can be scary to put yourself forward on social media, but vulnerability converts. We are attracted to those who show their humanity. Try!

How can your leadership include more aspects of vulnerability?

1. Set the tone. If you want your team to open up to you, you’ll have to take the lead and open up first. Set the standard with your vulnerability and strength of character. This will have a great effect on the people you manage because you are in a position of power. Showing off your vulnerable side ultimately paves the way for open and honest communication.

2. Create a safe space for your team. Foster a culture of psychological safety in which team members feel good about themselves and freely share ideas, provide feedback, and contribute more positively to the organization as a whole.
Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmundson defines psychological safety as“a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish anyone for speaking up. It is a belief shared by members of a team that team culture is safe for the interpersonal risk taking.

3. Encourage one-on-one meetings. Make time for your team members. Not everyone on the team will immediately feel comfortable speaking in front of the whole team. Regular one-on-one meetings with each individual create a safe space where they can voice their concerns or share their ideas. From there, you can provide feedback, encourage them to share their ideas, or pitch the idea on their behalf.

4. Introspect. Effective leadership never stands still, it is fluid and constantly evolving. Give yourself time to reflect on yourself, your leadership, your own vulnerabilities and your team.

  • What are you doing well?

  • What can you do better?

  • How is my team doing?

  • Are they happy and productive?


Vulnerability builds trust and improves performance. Have the courage to be vulnerable and watch your team and your organization thrive.

Karina Guerra, Xref Group Marketing Director, explains,

“A big step to leading with vulnerability is when you’re able to accept that it’s okay to ask for help and be open about where you need support.

Asking for help and seeking support means your business will see many benefits and new opportunities, including growth. Not everyone may have the same set of expertise, but leaning on others and coming together can help build your business.

“Leading with vulnerability is a journey that comes from the confidence you inspire in others when you take the time to show your true self. “To me, leading with vulnerability means daring to be ourselves and proudly showing our differences to the world.”

It can help establish a social connection between a team and the larger company.

Comments are closed.