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The Most Underused Leadership Quality

sticky note on a wall with words
It's ok to be human

I watched the Mr. Dress-up documentary on the Disney app recently. It was so good. I highly recommend it. Sweet and heartwarming. If in Canada, so many of us grew up with Mr. Dressup. He was our Mr. Rogers.


For the documentary, the producers interviewed several people who appeared as regulars on the show including a musician who became close with Ernie Coombs (Mr. Dressup) after he experienced a panic attack.


When the musician shared his experience with Ernie, Ernie admitted he took panic attacks too. The musician said it was in that moment that the two bonded and became close friends. 


Vulnerability is hard for people, yet it is one of the most underused leadership traits that creates better relationships and connections. 


Vulnerability shows our raw-ness, our human-ness. 


Brené Brown, shame researcher, says


“You can’t get to authenticity without going through vulnerability.”


You can't show up as your authentic self without being a vulnerable person.


Great leaders have struggle.

Financially successful people have struggle.

Confident people have struggle.


And believe me, I get it, vulnerability is hard.


It might be slightly easier to be vulnerable in our personal lives. You can admit to your bestie over a cup of coffee that you are struggling since you became an empty nester.


But, how does vulnerability show up in leadership at work?


Admitting mistakes. Sometimes people misinterpret leadership as knowing it all. Vulnerable leaders know they don't know everything and not everything is going to work, but it is better to execute and learn than not execute at all.


Seeking feedback. Vulnerable leaders know there is always more to learn about themselves. They are interested in their blindspots.


Sharing personal challenges. One of the things I love to do when I am speaking to a group or training is to share what went wrong for me personally. People connect with you when you show your imperfections and that you struggle too.


Reflecting on failures. Vulnerable leaders reflect and learn from their experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly. It takes courage to admit and face failure. 


Acknowledging limitations. Vulnerable leaders understand they have strengths and weaknesses and know that leading involves surrounding yourself with people who are strong in the areas you are not. Your goal is not to know everything. Your goal is to empower people to do the work. 


Our leadership journey is never linear. It's a step forward and two steps back, maybe even some circling around before you get forward traction.

a hand drawn line that goes in circles before going forward
Scribbly line

Cut yourself a break if you don't feel like you are "doing it right." Leadership is about trying and testing and learning and growing.


People want to connect with real people. Leaders are real people who understand that to connect with others, they have to go first.


Practice being vulnerable this week.


Coaching Question: Where is it hard for you to be vulnerable at work? In your personal life?


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