To Be or Not To Be Vulnerable

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Classic leadership thinking is all about being stoic, firm, and decisive. Of not having a chink of weakness anywhere in one’s professional behaviour and of not showing any emotions.

Such behaviour is present due to belief in the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittestwhich is usually used to refer to individuals being fit for positions and tasks in comparison to others being unfit. Examples of firm and decisive leaders abound. Simultaneously examples of great leadership in the form of raw courage and humanitarian services and are available aplenty.

Is either leadership approach wrong?


In the last decade our world, especially our societies and our economic environment, has changed tremendously. This has directly impacted on our behaviour in our roles as a citizen, a customer and, most importantly, as a professional.

Behavior forms our habits.

Whilst we may wear many hats every day, under each of those hats, it’s our behaviour that frames our character and creates our identity as an individual and leads to how we are perceived as a leaders in the roles we fulfill. Given our business models and management processes and the fixated need to hit the quarterly ‘profit numbers’, in the corporate scenario, we seem to avoid taking into account the behaviour of leaders and people and its resultant impact on business.

There are tons of great research available that clearly depict the behavioural changes of the past decade as a result of the financial meltdowns  & of technology becoming more user-friendly and more accessible.

The financial crisis’s left us being more prudent in our purchasing decisions and making better choices of our wants & needs. Technology in the form of smartphones and social media has given us the benefit of obtaining an unbiased third-party perspective on any issue and has created a world full of interest-based communities.

This has a huge impact on organisations. 

Within this changed (and still changing scenario) comes the issue of vulnerability (here’s the article that triggered this post) where corporate leadership is concerned.

To be vulnerable or Not to be’.

Corporate leadership has yet to take vulnerability as a positive. A decade back, vulnerability would have been an absolute no-no for a leader. It was akin to being weak, indecisive and wishy-washy.

Today showing vulnerability shows the leader to be humane i.e. caring and wanting the best for the other person; it shows an intent of listeningi.e. willing to take on board suggestions and advice and showing that the leader alone does not have all the solutions.

All of this is can be summed up as people-value.

Today’s leader has to be truly interested in delivering benefits that are valued by his people, in terms of their self-development, in order to achieve the long-term business goals.

Being vulnerable or expressing one’s vulnerability enables people to see the authentic side of the leader and not see it as a weakness.  Vulnerability enables the team to connect on an emotional level and acts as an enabler in the leader & team relationship dynamic. It leads to creating trust and with trust comes commitment that aids the leader in guiding the team to achieve the goals successfully.