Is Vulnerability the Secret Superpower to Leadership?


Many of us may recall, or still hold tight to the belief that in order to remain professional we need to keep our ‘game face’ on in our working life.  However, over the past decade significant research has continued to counteract this approach, suggesting that truly great leaders demonstrate strength through vulnerability as opposed to hiding behind their work mask.

In 2010 Dr Brené Brown discussed the power of vulnerability in her now famous Ted Talk (which has since had over 35 million views) and has continued to lead the research and public discussion of vulnerability ever since.

It’s important to note that being a vulnerable leader isn’t about letting go of all your boundaries and continually sharing the struggles you face in detail with your colleagues.  Dr Brown reiterates it’s about sharing openly and honestly in the right context.  So, each day it’s about making the decision to show up and keep it real in your working life, meeting any uncertainty with openness and being willing to experience the rollercoaster ride that comes with it.

When leaders decide to be vulnerable they cultivate a corporate culture of peak performance, here’s a few examples of how they achieve this:

Innovation ignites

True innovation requires risk taking, which is exactly what vulnerability allows leaders to do. If innovation is limited, then so too is business success.

Team performance soars

A vulnerable leader is more open and emotionally available for their team.  This approach invites open and honest conversations, cultivating connection, increasing confidence and commitment within the team.

Creativity has no boundaries

By admitting they don’t have all the answers and asking for help, vulnerable leaders empower others to share their ideas, which may have never seen the light of day.

Inviting vulnerability into your work life is no easy task, it requires you to dig deep, especially if you’ve been fighting it for a number of years.  So, if you’re ready to give it a go, Dr Brown recommends you start by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What’s keeping me from being vulnerable?
  2. In what work situations do I want to be braver?  Why?
  3. How am I currently protecting myself from being vulnerable in these situations? (e.g. perfectionism, control, perceptions, ego etc.)

To support and cultivate your development as a vulnerable leader, Dr Brown also recommends having a group of peers in a similar position (whether at the same company or a different one) that you can confide in to ‘share the dark stuff with’.  

All superheros have a weakness (or two), so if you truly want to be a great leader then it’s time to own yours – leading with vulnerability to create a corporate culture that cultivates peak performance.  To support you on this journey, you may be interested in our Executive Mentoring Program or Mindful Leadership Program.