Vulnerability in Leadership

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Nobody really wants to be vulnerable. We usually see it as a weakness, something to avoid at all costs. Especially in leadership roles, where we learn that we need to avoid any sign of weakness. We tend to believe that the best leaders are the strong leaders. The ones who make no mistakes, accept no blame and appear to be Teflon coated.

This view that you must avoid vulnerability at all costs seems on the surface to make perfect sense. When you dig a little deeper, however, it becomes clear that refusing to be vulnerable could be holding you back in your leadership practice.

What is vulnerability in leadership?

Some of our aversion to showing vulnerability is because we misunderstand exactly what it means to be vulnerable as a leader.

Vulnerability in leadership means having the courage to handle challenges that leadership throws at you. Share on X

It also means having the courage to admit when you need help or make mistakes.

It doesn’t mean oversharing, revealing too much personal information or attention seeking.  Sharing your every fear and mistake in your staff meetings isn’t being vulnerable. At best you’d be viewed as needy, and at worst you’d damage your credibility as a leader.

Why is vulnerability in leadership important?

Vulnerability, applied the right way to your leadership practice, can boost staff engagement, drive creativity and generate loyalty.


By promoting a genuine human connection that’s often lacking in a work environment.

Many leaders work hard to keep a professional distance from others. But vulnerability gives you the advantage of authenticity. By showing your vulnerability as a leader you give your teams a chance to see you as a human being. Allowing people to see your vulnerability makes them feel trusted. It also reduces the isolation that you might feel as a leader.

Authentic leaders have the advantage of being considered more trustworthy.  As humans, we recognise on some level when what somebody says is incongruous with how they really feel. Most of these intuitive insights happen subconsciously. We don’t openly analyse them, but when a person’s words and their body language don’t add up we begin to question their trustworthiness.

How to be more vulnerable as a leader

So how do you allow yourself to be vulnerable as a leader, without damaging your reputation and credibility?

  • Ask for help if you need it. Asking for help is a way of making yourself vulnerable. But it also demonstrates that you put effective outcomes above your personal pride. That’s a sign of a good leader.
  • Take responsibility when you make a mistake. The key to this one is to show you’re doing what you can to put it right.
  • Reach out to staff members that you know are experiencing emotional difficulties. It could be the loss of a loved one, or an illness in the family. Empathise with them and let them know that you understand how difficult emotional stress can be.

Many of the senior leaders I speak to are afraid of being vulnerable at work. They feel a lot of pressure to project a particular image of unshakeable confidence. Unfortunately, they’re missing out on the benefits of being their authentic selves at work.

When they feel they’re ready to step up and become themselves, they show more vulnerability at work, and engage at a deeper level with their colleagues.

Are you ready to step up and become more vulnerable at work? Contact me to see how I can help you be a more authentic leader.

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