Vulnerability in Action

Authentic leadership is a hot topic these days. When I think of what that means, it’s clear to me in one word.

Vulnerability.

I don’t think I need to define that for anyone, but I would like to describe what it looks like in action.

Vulnerable leaders:

Draw from their past mistakes and misses and use them as coaching moments for their teams.

  • They hold metaphorical “campfire sessions,” call the gang around, and usually launch in by saying, “Let me tell you about a doozy of a mistake I once made with a client.

Don’t hide their current failings or shortcomings.

  • Instead, they discuss them freely with team members, and create an open culture where they demonstrate self-awareness around their strengths and weaknesses. When the leader can proactively acknowledge where they fall short and show the desire to improve, they set the conditions for everyone else to do the same.

Seek feedback constantly.

  • They ask questions that include, “What’s it like to report to me?” “What’s it like to deliver bad news to me?” “What’s it like to be on a Zoom call, work a trade show booth, launch a product, organize a conference, co-write a document, etc. with me?”

When receiving unsolicited feedback from others, they don’t defend, deny, deflect, or refute any of it.

  • They patiently and graciously allow the offered feedback to flow. They take notes, perhaps ask some clarifying questions, and genuinely thank the “offerer” for their comments. Then, they discern what they’ve learned that is valuable and decide if they should integrate it into their behavior going forward.

Carefully consider how they share difficult news with others and declare their intent so there is minimal confusion or bruised feelings.

  • They move past the “golden rule” of treating others how you want to be treated, to the “platinum rule” of treating others how they want to be treated.

Mastering these components isn’t a small feat. It takes pure intent, a considerable number of reps, and a bruised ego along the way (yours, not theirs). Remember, vulnerability is drawn from courage. Courageous leaders can be vulnerable leaders.

Cowardly leaders can’t possibly demonstrate vulnerability.


Download our guide, Manage Your Biases to Better Manage Your Team, to learn some strategies for identifying your biases as a leader and what you can do to manage them.

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as the executive vice president of thought leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Release, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. Previously, Scott worked for the Disney Development Company and grew up in Central Florida. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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