Showing ‘vulnerability’ is a commonly discussed leadership concept. It refers to when a leader is vulnerable and shares with others something personal about themselves and how they are feeling. This helps to humanise the leader or individual who is building trust and connection. Let’s delve into what that looks like, its application and why it is important.

So what is vulnerability all about and can I opt out?
In essence it means stepping out into an area of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. As a leader you need to lead through the unknown, take risks and manage various exposures. This means that leadership and vulnerability cannot be separated. There is a perception that being emotionally vulnerable is a sign of weakness. It is anything but. It takes a strong man to lift a piano but an incredibly strong man to put it down gently. Humility and vulnerability take immense strength.

What does vulnerability look like?
Vulnerability is not walking around the office with a box of tissues or sharing your innermost fears and anxieties to anyone who will listen. The best way to see what vulnerability should look like as a leadership concept is to review the motivation behind it. Maybe you are wanting sympathy, attention or to complain. Or, perhaps you are looking to rally your team around you and the vision, to encourage others that you are all in this together; showing that you are honest, caring and that you do get it.

You may feel like you have no idea what you are doing and you may be angry at where your company is headed. You do need to be vulnerable and share that with someone but it is the who that matters. Find mature, wise counsel to discuss your feelings. Sharing this with your team in this instance is not an effective choice.

Vulnerability and Leadership
People buy into you as a person before they buy into your vision. Showing your authentic self through being vulnerable is key to building relationships and trust. Without trust you cannot shift the culture or influence outcomes beyond the status quo. We can have a tendency to feel that we need to show everyone that we can do it all and that we are emotionally robust. Not sharing anything personal leaves people uncertain and hesitant about what you stand for. Sometimes, leaders also swing the other way and are overly expressive about everything. Check your motives here. As a leader people are looking for strength. The correct balance is a learned one. Be patient and think on why you are communicating the way you are.

Think about how you show vulnerability in your leadership style. Is there anything you need to adjust to better communicate with others?