The transformative power of vulnerable leadership

Written by Ellen Boothe

What makes a great leader? In this blog post, we share our views on some of the qualities that we believe all great leaders share.

Throughout our careers, Greg and I have both been fortunate enough to work with some fantastic leaders (and some not-so-great leaders but that’s for another blog). When we first set up the People Development Company we sat down together to talk about what makes a great leader and found that, despite these people working across a diverse range of roles, organisations and sectors, they shared one essential quality. They all allowed themselves to be vulnerable.

We believe that great leaders are vulnerable leaders – there we said it. This might sound like a strange statement, especially as we usually associate vulnerability with weakness, but bear with us. There’s an enormous amount of strength in allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Vulnerable leaders know they’re not perfect and they don’t try to be – they embrace their strengths and their weakness and allow themselves to really ‘be seen’ by their peers and their team.

A vulnerable leader will allow themselves, and others, to make mistakes but has the resilience to get up off the mat after a fall. A vulnerable leader will give – but also, critically – ask for feedback and will never shy away from a difficult conversation. And a vulnerable leader will admit when they don’t have the answer or open up to their team about having a bad day.

But why is vulnerable leadership so successful? Put simply, people respond to vulnerability. Vulnerable leaders are authentic – they are open and honest and this builds a positive culture of trust and understanding. They are also empathetic. As a result of opening up about their own challenges, they are able to relate more easily with the people around them. They show genuine care, a willingness to provide comfort and – above all else – they listen.

Put another way, would you rather have an impenetrable leader that never showed any signs of weakness, or an inclusive leader who talked openly about challenges? I know which one I’d pick.

That said, how as individuals do we embrace vulnerability and become better leaders ourselves? Well, it is easier said than done but it is certainly possible. The first step is to let go of who you think you should be and be who you are. Brene Brown talks about this in more detail in her fantastic TedTalk, The Power of Vulnerability.

If you are looking to develop your leadership skills and want to learn more about vulnerable leadership, we can help. Imagine the difference it could make if you were able to identify and use your strengths and become the best version of you. After all, as Brene Brown famously said: ‘Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.’ Make your change today.