This essential seems counter-intuitive. This especially for those that grew up being taught that leaders are invincible and to view leadership with mystique. While the leader needs to be strong and competent, by no means are they to try to appear invulnerable.
The reality is, everyone is vulnerable. Everyone has weakness. Everyone has struggles. A good leader doesn’t hide their vulnerability. This isn’t about flaunting weakness or shortcomings. It’s about honesty and facing reality.
There is another side as well. Vulnerability is about letting people in and trusting others. Too many leaders try the lone wolf philosophy. They want people to follow, but not too close. They don’t want to let anyone in. Some of this is because of experience. People will let you down. As a leader, you will be betrayed and hurt at some point. It is just a part of it. It happened to Jesus, it will happen to us, if it hasn’t already. When it does happen, it is all too easy to retract and build walls and keep a distance from others. This seems like a safe and logical strategy.
All that kind of strategy does is leave the leader lonely and with a jaded and limited perspective. To be a effective with people requires a level of vulnerability with people. It means giving people grace and allowing them to get close. The most loyal people are usually closest to the leader. Yes, they are also the ones best positioned to betray, but the risk is worth it.
People need to know their leader is capable and sure. They also need to know that the leader is aware of his/her humanity and that they trust people. I find it hard to trust someone who is not trusting of others.
As a leader we can be honest about our struggles as well as our victories. We also need to make sure that we aren’t aloof and unapproachable.
So, leaders need to spend time with people. Spend time caring for and with others. Spend energy getting to know people and letting them in as well.
Today, more than ever, it is important for a leader to be accessible. Not just via some form of electronic communication, but accessible as a person, approachable. Many of the most successful high-profile leaders today are actually very approachable as people. This is a good thing.
Vulnerability is essential to leadership.