Vulnerability is often associated with weakness, high stakes emotions and a lack of confidence.

It’s the opposite of what we typically expect business leaders to show in a brainstorming session, on the public speaking stage or in the boardroom.

Often, entrepreneurs actively seek to hide their vulnerable traits, but being vulnerable has its strengths. Not only does it help us foster better relationships, but it also, surprisingly, acts as a beneficial strategy in growing stronger businesses.

An article from the World Economic Forum shows our trust in CEOs has floundered as many business leaders seek to remake the image of the self-serving business leader. Customers, investors, employees and the general public now expect them to share their vulnerabilities — and their company’s vulnerabilities — with the world.

The reason comes down to how vulnerability helps us build better businesses, excel as business leaders and ultimately, become better people.

Vulnerability Fosters Creativity

“Perfectionists perish. There’s nothing worse for a team than someone afraid to make a mistake,” tells sports psychologist Graham Betchart to CNBC.

Betchart knows this better than most. He has studied vulnerability and has helped train NBA athletes on how to develop mental fortitude and how to handle pressure.

What Betchart has found is that when we work to intentionally avoid mistakes, we limit our creativity. Being willing to accept that things may not go according to our plans or expectations — in other words, being vulnerable — gives us a greater chance of finding creative solutions.

University of Houston professor and leading researcher on vulnerability, Brené Brown, mirrors this idea. Brown argues that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation and creativity. She says, “I would challenge anyone to point to any act of innovation that was not born of vulnerability, that was not born of putting an idea on a table that half the people in the room thought was stupid. That the other half questioned. If the idea makes sense to everyone right away, there’s nothing innovative about it, right?”

Vulnerability Improves Trust

Brené Brown’s research also delves into how vulnerability can create a trusting workplace. In her famous “The Power of Vulnerability” TED talk, she says that vulnerability lies at the very foundation of authentic connection with others. In her research, Brown determined that “a sense of worthiness” is what defines people who have a strong sense of belonging from those who feel alone. Those who have “the courage to be imperfect” and embrace their vulnerabilities are more likely to build meaningful and trusting connections.

“We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability,” Brown says. Unfortunately, that habit of hiding our emotions and imperfections ultimately leads to disconnection and distrust.

When leading a business, that focus on building better connections can really pay off. According to the Harvard Business Review, transparent communication builds better levels of hope and trust which improves employee performance. It also builds a culture of forgiveness where we don’t punish mistakes, and instead learn from them — a mindset that has proven to benefit productivity.

Betchart told CNBC Make It, “We’ve found that when a leader, a person in charge, is able to be vulnerable and say, ‘I’m human just like you and I make mistakes,’ it empowers the group. People really resonate when they can connect.”

Build Better Character But Safeguard Your Boundaries

While it’s important to be open, there’s a fine line when it comes to being too vulnerable at work. For instance, oversharing and expressing self-doubt excessively makes others start to question your ability or credibility.

You also don’t want to fake vulnerabilities to build relationships. Quartz reports that when vulnerability veers away from authenticity, it can start to feel scripted and even hurt you professionally. Instead, It’s important to ask yourself if what you’re sharing is helpful to others, including yourself. Gradually, it’s reasonable to include vulnerable aspects of yourself while inspiring others in the process.

Vulnerability for business leaders isn’t just about showing your emotions or pain points to connect with others. It’s about being more self-aware and actively collaborating with others to examine important problems and solve them creatively. Yes, vulnerability makes us more real, more communicative and more trusting, but it also helps us build stronger teams, bigger businesses and better communities. It’s time to start using our vulnerabilities to our advantage rather than thinking of them as weaknesses to be overcome.


  • Debrah Lee Charatan

    Founder and President of BCB Property Management, Inc.

    Debrah Lee Charatan is a serial entrepreneur, dedicated philanthropist, and veteran real estate sales and investment expert. Charatan currently serves as the president and principal of BCB Property Management, a real estate firm that specializes in acquiring, renovating, and managing multifamily properties in Manhattan and Brooklyn’s most livable neighborhoods. The company has thrived under her leadership; since its establishment in 2008, Charatan and her team have acquired more than 1.6 million square feet of real estate in New York and New Jersey and grown the company’s portfolio by over 120 buildings and 1,800 apartments.    Charatan’s career spans over four decades working in New York City’s real estate landscape. Her career began in the 1970s, when she took a secretarial position at a real estate brokerage firm. Charatan would later pursue her passion for entrepreneurship by founding her first real estate investment firm, Bach Realty. The business earned considerable recognition both for its financial success and its capable, all-female sales team. In 1993, Charatan used her hard-gained experience and accomplishments in the sector to establish another real estate firm, Debrah Lee Charatan Realty.    Charatan became an active philanthropist and co-created the Charatan/Holm Family to support a wide range of cultural, humanitarian, and civic causes in New York City. Organizations that have benefitted from the foundation’s support include but are not limited to: the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Selfhelp Community Services Foundation, Park East Synagogue, Chabad of Southampton, the Jewish Museum, the Central Park Conservancy, Chai Lifeline, and the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation.    Charatan also serves as the vice-chair of the board of trustees for the Selfhelp Community Services Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps Holocaust survivors and other at-risk senior residents find secure housing and care support. An avid supporter of the arts, Charatan is also a member of both the Women’s Leadership Council of the Lincoln Center Corporate Fund and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Real Estate Council.    Debrah Lee Charatan’s accomplishments have earned coverage from several high-profile media publications, including but not limited to USA Today, the New York Daily News, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Inc., and Fortune. Her own writing has also been featured in outlets such as Entrepreneur, the Huffington Post, VentureBeat, SCORE NY, and CFO Magazine.    Outside of her entrepreneurial and philanthropic efforts, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family in New York City.