Leading Blog


Leadership Vulnerability: A Personal Journey Through the Eye of the Storm

Leadership Vulnerability

IN THE HIGH-STAKES world of leadership, where every decision can be scrutinized and every failure magnified, the concept of vulnerability often takes on a negative connotation, especially among men, who are taught to equate emotional openness with weakness. Yet, if we delve deeper into the annals of history and the realms of effective leadership, a different narrative emerges—one where vulnerability is not a liability but a profound source of strength.

My own confrontation with vulnerability’s raw power came unexpectedly during a pivotal moment in my career. Tasked with addressing the top 400 leaders of Raytheon Corporation, a defense juggernaut, my inner turmoil was at its peak.

The recent passing of my father had left me emotionally bereft, a state further intensified by the daunting prospect of following luminaries such as General Stanley McChrystal and Jon Meacham. Standing before these distinguished leaders, my vulnerability was not just a shadow—it was my companion.

As I shared my insights, weaving through personal anecdotes of loss and resilience, the connection forged with the audience was palpable. Ultimately, the overwhelming reception to my address was a testament to the power of vulnerability in forging genuine human connections.

Harnessing Vulnerability: A Guide for Leaders

In the realm of leadership, where the pressure to perform and appear unflappable is relentless, allowing oneself to be vulnerable is an act of bravery. It breaks down barriers, fosters genuine connections, and cultivates an environment where innovation and loyalty can flourish. For emerging leaders aiming to chart a successful course, remember that vulnerability, wielded wisely, is not your Achilles’ heel but your strength —fortifying you face the world head-on.

  • Embrace Visibility: Brené Brown, a luminary in the study of vulnerability, posits that true leadership requires the courage to be seen, warts and all. It’s about dropping the facade and allowing your team to see you as human—capable but fallible. This transparency fosters trust and encourages others to be equally open, creating a culture of authenticity.
  • Solicit Support: The act of seeking help is often misinterpreted as a sign of weakness, yet it signifies the opposite. It’s a declaration of strength, signaling a leader’s awareness of their limitations and their willingness to learn and grow. This humility not only humanizes you it also strengthens the bonds within your team.
  • Navigate Vulnerability with Intent: Vulnerability should not be an unchecked floodgate of emotions. It’s about strategic openness with boundaries. Sharing personal stories or challenges should be purposeful, aimed at building connections or illustrating lessons, rather than seeking sympathy. It’s about leading not from a place of invulnerability but from the helm of authenticity, where acknowledging one’s limitations becomes a source of collective strength.
  • Lead with Empathy: Showing empathy is a powerful manifestation of vulnerability; it requires leaders to connect with their own experiences of challenge and uncertainty to relate to others. By genuinely understanding and sharing the feelings of another, leaders can create a deeply supportive culture. This connection not only humanizes the leader but also elevates the entire team’s morale and cohesion.
  • Cultivate a Culture of Open Dialogue: Teams thrive on clear and open communication. Leaders should encourage an environment where feedback flows freely in all directions. By being open to receiving feedback, leaders demonstrate vulnerability in action—showing they value growth and learning over maintaining an image of infallibility. This openness invites team members to share ideas and concerns without fear, fostering innovation and problem-solving.
  • Share Failures as Learning Opportunities: Acknowledging failure as an integral part of the learning process makes it easier for team members to embrace risks and innovate without the paralyzing fear of making mistakes. Leaders should share their past mistakes and the lessons learned from them. This not only demystifies the path to success it also encourages a growth mindset within the team.
  • Practice Self-Care and Encourage It Amongst Your Team: My study, State of Working America Report – Thriving in Resilience and Brilliance, found that 82% of working Americans think great leaders have to inspire resilience in those they lead. But how can leaders inspire resilience if they’re not practicing self-care themselves? Leaders must recognize the importance of their own well-being and set an example by practicing self-care. This might include acknowledging when they are under too much pressure, taking time off to recharge, or engaging in activities that nurture their mental and physical health. By doing so, leaders send a powerful message that taking care of oneself is not a sign of weakness but a critical aspect of sustaining performance and leadership over the long term.

Embracing Vulnerability

Incorporating these strategies into your leadership approach not only deepens your own practice of vulnerability, it sets a powerful example for your team. A leader who embraces vulnerability with intention and wisdom opens a path for their team that is marked by resilience, trust, and unparalleled success. Together, these practices transform vulnerability from a perceived weakness into the very cornerstone of strong, effective leadership.

* * *

Leading Forum
Simon T. Bailey is the world’s leading expert in Brilliance. His groundbreaking research, State of Working America Report Thriving in Resilience and Brilliance, solidifies his insights in his 11th book, Resilience@Work: How to Coach Yourself Into a Thriving Future.

With Disney Institute as his launchpad, he’s left an indelible mark on 2,400 plus organizations in 54 countries, including American Express, Deloitte, Visa, Signet Jewelers, and Taco Bell. He has made a remarkable impact on 120,000 professionals who’ve experienced his pioneering courses on the LinkedIn Learning platform. He’s also been recognized as Success Magazine’s Top 25, alongside Brené Brown, Tony Robbins, and Oprah Winfrey, as well as being on leadersHum Top 200 Power List. His viral video, released on Goalcast through META, has over 91 million plus views to date. Learn more at simontbailey.com.

* * *

Follow us on Instagram and X for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *


Explore More

Power Of Vulnerability Getting Naked

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:22 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about General Business



Books to Read

Best Books of 2023


Leadership Books
How to Do Your Start-Up Right

Explore More

Leadership Books
Grow Your Leadership Skills

Leadership Minute
Leadership Minute

Leadership Classics
Classic Leadership Books

Get the LEAD:OLOGY Newsletter delivered to your inbox.    
Follow us on: Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Instagram

© 2024 LeadershipNow™

All materials contained in https://www.LeadershipNow.com are protected by copyright and trademark laws and may not be used for any purpose whatsoever other than private, non-commercial viewing purposes. Derivative works and other unauthorized copying or use of stills, video footage, text or graphics is expressly prohibited. The Amazon links on this page are affiliate links. If you click through and purchase, we will receive a small commission on the sale. This link is provided for your convenience and importantly, help to support our work here. We appreciate your use of these links.