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The Importance of Vulnerability as a Leader


If anything is true about the impact COVID has had, it's that it has made everyone vulnerable in some way. Even leaders of organizations who may have been well protected and isolated physically reeled at the impact on their business and had to make some very hard decisions. While the topic of vulnerability in leadership was getting attention prior to the pandemic, there's no doubt that the need for leaders to show their vulnerability has only increased during the pandemic.


If you’re in a leadership position, the last thing you want is to be seen as weak by your employees. But you also need to be careful of being too removed from your front line as well and being seen as robotic. Both have their drawbacks.

Employees these days want to work for value-driven companies and the direction of values comes from the top down.


Here are five ways leaders can show more vulnerability and authenticity in the workplace.


1. Be Open About Not Having All the Answers

It’s critical for leaders to be able to let down their guard and be open about not having all the answers to everything. This creates trust, as employees know their leaders won’t just tell them what they want to hear.


2. Show Some Fear

The phrase “fearless leader” may be misunderstood and misleading. Fearless implies that there is no fear, when often what we mean to communicate is the courage and bravery to press forward in spite of fear. Often it’s that pressing on that most people find impressive and awe-inspiring. This isn’t to say that leaders should explicitly express fear, but rather that they shouldn’t feel compelled to act as if it doesn’t exist.


3. Get Personal

Being vulnerable is how most deep connections between people are forged. If leaders seek to develop meaningful relationships with staff, then getting to know them on some personal level is necessary. Of course, it’s important to keep certain boundaries. But employees like to know who they’re working for. So closing yourself off or being too private can send the wrong impression to your employees. It also shows a lack of emotional intelligence and that can be a huge turnoff.


4. Ask for Help

Most leaders have a hard time asking for help because they fear how it will be perceived. This is hardly the best road to any effective solution regardless of how big or small the issue may be. Being open about needing assistance shows others you’re human and need help with certain things just like everyone else. You may be used to people coming to you for help most of the time. But people feel good when they’re in a position to help others. So, if you need it, don’t rob someone in your organization of that opportunity!


5. Admit When You’ve Made a Mistake

It’s hard for most people to admit that they made a mistake. But for leaders, it can be even harder as saving face with the rest of the organization can cause inner conflict. Leaders aren’t great because they don’t make mistakes. Successful leaders are those who have achieved great things as a result of being willing to make mistakes and then learn from them. The more you can embrace this philosophy and transmit it to your employees, the more admiration and loyalty you’ll gain.


Whether it be personal or professional, no one is immune to struggles, and leaders are no different. No one is perfect and we shouldn’t expect our leaders to be.




This article was written by Michele Mavi for Atrium Staffing and was originally published on the Atrium blog.