On Leadership and Vulnerability


For some reason, people in leadership roles have this idea that they have to be impervious – that showing emotion, vulnerability, or weakness of any kind somehow devalues their status.

It’s like business leaders view themselves as ruthless pirate captains or generals at war, as if the first sign of weakness will cause a mutiny.

This couldn’t be further from the truth!

True Leadership

True leadership is achieved when a team identifies with their leader as a real human being, and that includes faults, fears, shortcomings, and of course, vulnerability.

Accepting the fact that you will sometimes be vulnerable, that sometimes a plan will fail – that you aren’t perfect – will actually make you a stronger, more capable leader, both in your own mind and in the minds of your team members.

This is true for a couple of reasons.

  1. By recognizing that you are, in fact, not superhuman, you allow yourself to prepare for failure, and to think creatively when things don’t go as planned. Suddenly change doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Vulnerability isn’t a trait of weakness; it is a trait of humanity. Human beings sometimes falter.
  2. By allowing your team to see that you are susceptible to the same emotional pitfalls as they are, your perseverance and leadership skills truly shine as you work through the problems. By being honest about the adversity you face, you further inspire your team to overcome similar obstacles.

“Because most of us suck at it, if you can master the art of vulnerability, you have a distinct advantage. It may very well be the one leadership skill that endears you to others, creates unwavering loyalty, and sets you apart from the pack.” ~ Shelly Prevost

Authentic Leadership

Something about mutual vulnerability (read: openness, honesty, transparency) helps bring teams together. Showing your true self, including the parts you might not be terribly proud of, allows people to get to know one another in a real and meaningful way – this inspires compassion, collaboration, and a true sense of community within a team.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change.” Dr. Brene Brown ClickToTweet

[ted id=1042]

Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

Acting like there aren’t ever problems, or that nothing ever bothers you, only separates you from your team. Moreover, it won’t make you appear to be a fearless leader – it will just make it seem like you don’t care.

So, how are you doing with vulnerability in your leadership role? Are you, or not? How would being more vulnerable help you be more true and authentic to your followers? Do you wish that people who have led you in the past were more vulnerable? Would it have helped them be more influential? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Anil Saxena
Anil Saxena is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | (847) 212-0701

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L2L Contributing Author


  1. Rami Kantari on November 25, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Executive Training Dubai.

  2. Lynn Ferguson-Pinet on November 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Trust is a key dimensions of successful teams, which really means being able to be vulnerable with each other, so this is very important for teams in general not just as leaders.


    • Anil Saxena on November 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      Lynn- couldn’t agree with you more. But, it’s vital for leaders to set the tone. If they can be vulnerable then that opens the door for it to be okay for others to be as well.

  3. Jagoda Perich-Anderson, M.A. on November 26, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Just the other day a manager of a large corporations said to me, “Never let them see you sweat.” So this idea about leaders needing to hide their vulnerability is alive and well. However, I agree with you and with Brene Brown that authentic leaders garner trust and loyalty better than those who hold themselves back.

    • Anil Saxena on November 27, 2013 at 7:33 am

      Jagoda – Appreciate your comment. Interesting that your comment came from a manager. Truth is, I’m not sure being vulnerable is a skill that leaders learn. We teach them process, finance, etc. But seldom do we give them insight into the human brain. Sad really. Most of what they will be doing is leading people. Imagine what a difference in leadership there would be if the focus of becoming a leader was learning about people versus learning about nuts and bolts or mechanics of an organization.

      • Jagoda Perich-Anderson, M.A. on November 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

        It’s true that business schools and many leadership development programs ignore this aspect. Then in the real world of corporate politics, showing “weakness” (which is how vulnerability or admissions of not having all the answers is often interpreted), can derail someone’s career. While followers do crave strong, competent leaders, they also want someone they can relate to, someone with integrity, and the opportunity to help them achieve goals.