Leading with Vulnerability

Share vulnerability, be purposeful, build relationships.

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Leading with Vulnerability
Leading with Vulnerability

You can create an environment where people are engaged, connecting, and excited to share. You can do this by being intentional in exhibiting positive actions. Brene Brown, the bestselling author, and TED speaker, illustrates this point beautifully by highlighting vulnerability as having the courage and strength to be seen as you are. Indeed, to be vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness. As the business landscapes continuously change, and leaders need to play towards their emotional intelligence, the ability to be vulnerable is considered a desirable trait, even an asset.

To be vulnerable is a subjective experience of uncertainty and insecurity. Research has conceptualized vulnerability as a personality trait that varies among individuals, which can be influenced by situations. The process of being vulnerable can also play a key role in leadership development in enhancing resiliency.

Cultivating your vulnerability as a leader is about being purposeful in building relationships with others rather than trusting this will happen naturally. Amy Morin, a best-selling author on mental strength, TED speaker, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, asks the question, what makes it hard for you to be vulnerable?

Be aware of your emotional state as well as others through being fully present at the moment. To be mindfully attentive takes practice. Start by taking a breath, then two, while you settle into stillness for five minutes as you progress, train your attention for 10 minutes. And build from there.

Being vulnerable should be framed as a positive quality, even a strength.Academics have argued that being vulnerable has been overlooked in leadership relationships and could serve the 21st-century workplace well. Building followership through the inclusion of vulnerability allows for sustainability and aligns well with more relational organizations.

Having shared vulnerability with someone or another team member could be defined as communicating an experience that hurt you emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Research suggests that sharing your vulnerable moments is a mechanism for leaders to develop meaningful relationships, which could also increase charisma.

To be able to open yourself towards being vulnerable and building more meaningful relationships, there are three preconditions to assist.


Humility enhances personal growth while deepening interpersonal relatedness. By detaching and letting go of your own self-serving needs, you begin to reframe yourself and have an interest in others’ pursuits. Having humility is a choice, a personality trait that requires time in self-reflection and being honest with yourself.


A person who is mindful exhibits a heightened level of self-awareness, which is the ability to regulate your emotions and feelings internally while being present and focused on living the moment. The act of practicing mindfulness is being self-aware as well as having a clear orientation towards your environment and progressing forward in a non-judgmental way.

Acknowledge Imperfections

Embrace your upward spiral as explained by Dr. Kristen Lee, recognized award-winning author, TED speaker, and lead faculty for Behavioral Science at Northeastern University in Boston reveals the potential for growth amid life’s simultaneous chaos and order. Dr. Lee’s second book, “Mentalligence,” encourages all to spiral up, lean in with your strengths while continuously progressing forward in other areas of development.

When leaders share their emotions, it provides an opportunity to connect with others, which in turn increases psychological safety among the other person or team. It builds trust. Being vulnerable creates the motivation to build relationships. When we embrace our failures and share our vulnerabilities with humility, we can then truly connect with others on an emotional level and progress forward.

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