Leadership and Vulnerability


Leadership is never easy, especially in today’s world.  Leaders are put under intense pressure to manage fast-changing environments, with the understanding that the opportunities are vast, but the expectations are high.  I have seen this within an Anglican leadership context where the Priest is asked to be everything from faultless strategist to mature pastor, and to perform all their tasks with few resources and little continued training or oversight.  Secular leaders will have similar challenges. How can a leader thrive in these difficult times?  Part of the solution is in showing their vulnerability.


Larry Hirschhorn, an organisation consultant, identifies that a necessity for the leader today is to exercise vulnerability and dependency within their teams.  This is a big shift from a previous age when a leader was followed because of their formal authority (their title and status in the organisation); within our postmodern times the expectations are different.  There is distrust in formal structures, and people are looking more for connections, involvement, and authenticity.  Leaders must rely less on their formal authority, and more on their relational authority, and part of that is showing vulnerability towards their teams.  If you are a leader and you want your team to thrive, learn how to exercise vulnerability alongside your leadership and make space for your team to share their fears and anxieties openly while also performing their tasks.


When and How do I show vulnerability?


There are some settings where vulnerability can be abused, and the leader needs to do some work on themselves first to understand what they feel is safe to share and within what context.  Leaders spouting unprocessed pain can bring initial support, but this ultimately leads to uncertainty and insecurity within the organisation.  There will also be team members that will find a leader’s vulnerability hard to take, and it does change the dynamic of a team when people start sharing openly.  Being a vulnerable leader involves practice, and some risk taking, but when the leader gets this right it grows trust and unity for the team, enabling them to tackle new difficult challenges together.     


For the Leader who is not in touch with their weakness and vulnerabilty, and would like to develop their sense of self-awareness, you can find some tools here


Leaders, consider your weaknesses, and show your team a deeper level of vulnerability.  It can lead to improved performance and whole-team development and growth.      


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