The power of vulnerability in leadership

In the leadership realm, vulnerability has emerged as a powerful catalyst for change. This article explores the impact of vulnerability on leaders and their teams.

The author of this article is EPAM project manager Nino Vashakmadze.


The power of vulnerability

Derived from the Latin word “wound,” vulnus, vulnerability is the state of being open to injury, or appearing as if you are. It describes the quality of bbeing easily hurt or attacked and according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it refers to one who is “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; open to attack or damage.”

Vulnerability in the business context has been considered and studied by various authors. The primary unifying element in the research and writing on this subject is the consistent finding that leaders who are willing to be vulnerable are more likely to build trusting relationships, embrace innovation, and drive growth. Doing so requires a willingness to admit imperfections, and open yourself up to being vulnerable.

To clarify from the outset, being vulnerable should be understood not as a weakness or as a business risk, but as an indication of connection and curiosity. It is the ability to embrace unknown paths of potential opportunities in uncertain times. And yes, it requires courage!

This phenomenon is already unfolding in the business world, and those who embrace it early on stand to win a lot!

Why does vulnerability matter?

Two main benefits of embracing vulnerability in your leadership role:

1. It can build stronger and more effective teams.

    Being vulnerable as a leader means that you are honest with yourself and others. It means that:

    • You share openly that you might not have all the answers.
    • You ask for help.
    • You will say “I don’t know [yet]”!

      This builds trust between you and your team, which creates powerful connections at work through authenticity. People can feel when a leader is true.

      2. It creates a nurturing environment for innovation.

        Vulnerability in a leader helps create a collaborative work environment that stimulates teams to try different things, challenge the status quo, and proactively work on developing new products and processes. It builds an inclusive environment where people feel empowered to express their thoughts. Creativity and innovation are enhanced when team members have a space where they feel free to be vulnerable with each other. This starts with the leaders.

        How do you master vulnerability?

        At times, vulnerability might mistakenly be considered a weakness, especially in toxic cultures. Elsewhere, vulnerable leaders create an environment that nurtures trust and open communication, integral components of learning and innovation without which there is no business success. Wondering how you can master an appropriate level of vulnerability? Here are some tips for achieving it:

        • Be authentic: by being true to yourself.
        • Be honest about your mistakes: it encourages your team members’ honesty as well.
        • Be adaptive: it prepares you as a leader seeking to revise and change.
        • Be agile: it encourages you to be receptive and amplifies growth.

          The era of carrot-and-stick leadership is over. Embracing vulnerability allows individual voices to be shared and heard for the evolution of business creation and optimization. Leadership vulnerability becomes one of the driving forces for innovation based on trust among team members, it also contributes to their engagement and satisfaction.

          Have the courage to be vulnerable!

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