Why It's Easy to Love a Vulnerable Boss
April 15, 2015

Why It's Easy to Love a Vulnerable Boss

by Brian de Haaff

Many thanks to those who took the time to read Tuesday’s article, The One Secret of Highly Successful Leaders. In this piece, I explained how successful leaders are willing to be transparent — to pull back the curtain and share their true selves. Transparency goes hand in hand with trust.

Over 40,000 of you read that post and more than 750 shared their thoughts by leaving a comment. This article generated some intriguing feedback from readers. Here are a few of my favorites:

A very valid point about good leaders being transparent. A quote from Alice in Wonderland, ‘if you don’t know where you’re going any road will do.‘ As a leader, if you do not share with your employees, how will you & your business get to your desired destination?
Being transparent draws the people in who face the same challenges, or have experience, insight, and desire to help with the right solutions. This has been true for me both personally and professionally.

I also stressed that transparency leaves you open to the possibility of being wrong. This next comment expanded on that idea, and really got me thinking.

The last point is closely tied to leadership vulnerability, which is a trait undervalued significantly in business. Patrick Lencioni uses the term vulnerability-based trust where leaders “comfortably and quickly acknowledge, without provocation, their mistakes, weaknesses, failures, and needs for help.”

Think about that the word “vulnerable” for a moment. What words come to mind? Perhaps you think weak…exposed…maybe even wimpy. Vulnerability means “being capable of being physically or emotionally wounded, and open to attack or damage.“

By that definition, it seems like vulnerability is the polar opposite of strength. Why would a leader be willing to expose their soft underbelly?

When you choose to be vulnerable as a leader, you willingly put down your natural defenses — for the greater good. However, it’s not about being whiny, making excuses, or avoiding work. Being vulnerable as a leader actually takes courage. I have found that my team responds positively when I am willing to be vulnerable.

Here’s why employees will love you when you choose to show your true self.

Being vulnerable makes you:

If you’ve ever worked for someone with a closed-door policy, you know how frustrating that can be. A boss who shows vulnerability is open to interruptions. As the CEO of Aha!, I find that the more approachable I am, the better my team works. My employees don’t have to break down the walls to get my attention. Even if I’m having a lousy day, I still make myself open and available.

When you operate in an atmosphere of vulnerability, you can actually build a stronger team. Because you willingly lay out the direction that you are headed, your team doesn’t have to puzzle over what you might be thinking. Your team members can be confident because they know the roles they have to play.

Employees will want to follow a leader who freely acknowledges their own shortcomings and willingly shares the joys and sorrows of life with their team. When a leader shows this human side, employees realize they can show their humanity without fear of rejection.

This kind of leadership is far from wimpy. Vulnerable leadership can be a dangerous undertaking, but it is well worth the risk.

When you are willing to do whatever you can to break down the barriers to potential growth, your employees will love you for it. In return, they will learn to be vulnerable with you and with each other. The result? A more productive, happy environment for everyone.

Are you willing to make yourself vulnerable?

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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