The Best Leaders Lead With Vulnerability

For the longest time, I felt like I needed to present myself in a certain way in order to be a leader. However, the best leaders lead with vulnerability.

lead with vulnerability

Leaders aren’t perfect. A review of US Presidents, between 1776 and 1974 suggests almost half of them suffered from mental illnesses. Whether or not Abraham Lincoln would’ve met modern criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), his melancholy was certainly public and well known.

Howard Schultz, current CEO of Starbucks says, “The hardest thing about being a leader is demonstrating or showing vulnerability… When the leader demonstrates vulnerability and sensibility and brings people together, the team wins.”

I think what held me back for so long in my leadership was that I cared so much about approval. I could outwardly present myself and adapt my personality based on my audience. But, this leadership was watered down. Not only that, but I simply wasn’t being true to myself.

I needed the courage to be myself. I’ve found I can strongly lead with vulnerability through our LA Men’s Group. Perfection, after all, is not a relatable quality. Journalist and strategist Jen Leonard says, “Being willing to be strengthened by our human vulnerability is the true foundation for transformational leadership.”

Here are just a few ways I’ve found you can lead with vulnerability.

Own What You Got

Yesterday, I spoke with two friends wanting to pursue girls. I discovered what was ultimately holding them back was their feeling of inadequacy. I told one of them, “own what you got.” The truth is, you’ll never have it all…at least, not all at once. Someone out there will always have better looks, style, money, and charisma. But, you can take confidence in what you have now.

More importantly, you can have confidence is your weakness. One of my friends, Caitlin Crosby (founder of the Giving Keys) also founded LoveYourFlawz. Embrace your imperfections. For me, I love my cheesiness and goofiness. My wife Kristen thinks I have “dad humor,” and that’s just equipping me for my daughter coming in June.

Slow Down

Transformational leaders take time to slow down, be without an agenda, meditate and let their intuition speak.”

We all get busy. Working, training, running this website, leading a large Los Angeles men’s group, launching a book, being a good husband…this is a full plate. But, lately, I’ve felt like I’m over exerting myself. Brene Brown says, “when we struggle to believe in our worthiness, we hustle for it.”

So, I’m scaling back. Last night, we re-launched one of our men’s small groups. I felt so much peace going to it as an attendee and not as a leader. We have to take time to receive.

Begin Again

At the 2017 Grammy’s, Adele stopped her tribute performance to George Michael. “Can we start again?” she asked. The second time around, she nailed it with tears, and received a standing ovation.

It’s ok to admit when you make a mistake. Mark Zuckerberg recently apologized and admitted he, not Facebook nor its employees, was wrong for blindspots. Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, says, “The best CEOs embrace being wrong.” We make mistakes, we apologize, and we get back up again.

“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.”

“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.” Sigmund Freud

At its heart, vulnerability is simply exposing yourself to others. When you lead with vulnerability, it might look like “calling an employee or colleague whose child is not well, reaching out to someone who has just had a loss in their family, asking someone for help, taking responsibility for something that went wrong at work, or sitting by the bedside of a colleague or employee with a terminal illness.” Vulnerability gives us a place to connect.

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2 Responses to The Best Leaders Lead With Vulnerability

  1. Beerruuster July 15, 2022 at 4:00 am #

    I have no context it is true. But i want context. I feel i can not be corrupted by the biggest of corruptors. I can use anything to my advantage my perceiving it positively. But first i will prove my control over impulse. I will ace this exam.


  1. Lonely Leaders: Common Reasons They Are Lonely and What They Need - August 27, 2018

    […] Leaders need a safe place to vent. Unlike everyone else, a leader can’t openly complain. And often, leaders don’t want to dump their work problems at home. One of the activities I’ve recently implemented into my life is getting together with a small group of men. We meet weekly, and it’s a good place to get any issues off of my chest. Other leaders might find the help they need through therapists or coaches. Sometimes, being open to everyone can be therapeutic. As I’ve written before, the best leaders lead with vulnerability. […]

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