We rarely think about vulnerability as being an important trait for a leader to have. All too often, the media portrays leaders as strong and confident people whose persona never cracks under any circumstance. 

The reality is that leadership can take different forms and good leadership is fluid. An effective leader is someone who can change their management styles depending on the situation.

Crisis situations can need decisive leaders or compassionate ones. And there are several cases where vulnerability can make or break a leader’s personal development, their relationship with their employees, or even the growth of their business. 

Let’s explore how. 

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One of the qualities that make a leader great is the ability to listen. It’s only through listening that you can get critical information. As a leader, you can practice vulnerability by listening and being receptive to feedback.

This feedback can come from your employees, higher-ups, peers, and customers. It’s especially hard to listen to negative feedback about your performance or the working of your product. But by making yourself vulnerable and truly listening, you finally get pertinent information that leads to positive changes. 

With feedback, you can improve your product features, support your employees more, connect with peers, and grow. And this only works when you’re ready to be vulnerable.

Connect with others

Another way to practice vulnerability is to communicate. It takes courage to express your feelings and to ask for help. You may feel that as a leader, you have to portray a picture of strength and invulnerability. But the truth is that a lack of vulnerability creates distance between you and others. 

Connect with your peers and employees more by asking for help. Your job is to find solutions and that means making sure that people are working according to their best abilities.

When you ask for help, ask questions, or communicate things that you don’t know, you give others the chance to shine. You’ll help your team feel like they are making an impact, something that’s vital to get people to stay especially when research shows that only 21% of people feel valued at work. 

Create a better work environment

A workplace’s cultural values, ambiance, and general working environment always take shape from the top-down. This means that your own attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors have a direct impact on the work environment.

Being vulnerable and showing your human side creates a stress-free workplace where people thrive. Instead of using up energy to manage anxiety or to silence their inner critics, your employees will focus on doing their jobs well. 

Removing internal distractions such as stress, anxiety, fear, self-doubt, and other feelings will make you and others more productive. So, practice being communicative, share some information from your own life, and don’t be afraid to talk about failures. These details can be reframed as powerful lessons that are retained in your employees’ minds. 

Vulnerability starts from within

We’ve looked at just a few ways that vulnerability makes you a better leader. Throughout the post, we’ve focused on your interactions with others as the basis for practicing productive vulnerability.

But it’s important to start by being vulnerable with yourself. What does this mean? Be honest with your feelings and express them in private. Some healthy ways to be vulnerable with yourself are: 

  • Practicing freewriting and journaling daily. Write at least three pages in a book or online in a private blog post in the morning or evening. The idea is to let your thoughts freeflow and to not edit or pause, allowing your real feelings to surface
  • Meditate and carry out deep breathing exercises as a way to calm down surface-level thoughts so that you can be more present with your deeper emotions
  • Instead of indulging in unhealthy procrastinating behavior such as snacking or using social media, go for long walks and ‘walkout’ your feelings

When you’re able to be more vulnerable with yourself, you’ll find the confidence to do the same thing with others while standing by your actions. You’ll lead by example and provide people with empowering ways to grow.