The Vulnerable Leader

Vulnerable-Leader-Lora-CrestanLeadership is not easy. In fact, if you are doing it right, it is downright difficult.  Learning to lead is an ongoing process that evolves with you.  Many skills and talents are molded together to create the leader you are today.  Your personality and the experience you have had either as a leader or with the leaders around you will definitely contribute to who you are as a leader.  We are clearly influenced by leaders and their actions, whether directly or in the media – a great leveler when it comes to viewing leaders as they truly are.

Think about this though.  Have you progressed in your leadership development so that you know it is okay to be vulnerable?

Vulnerable is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as ‘being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally’.  As leaders, we need to accept that we are human – being vulnerable is part of that.

Being vulnerable is not:

–        A sign of weakness or indecision

–        Becoming a doormat and allowing others to walk all over you

–        Crying at the drop of a hat

–        Taking unnecessary risks that could harm you or your organization

–        Abdicating responsibility

Being vulnerable as a leader is:

–        Letting others know you need help and asking for it

–        Listening to feedback and incorporating it into your next steps or development plans

–        Understanding that not everyone will ‘like’ you and dealing with the emotions that comes with that acknowledgement

–        Being empathetic and compassionate with your team, your family, your clients and your vendors – consistently and authentically

–        Allowing yourself opportunities to reflect and review your past performance and behaviour and seeking guidance for change

In quite the opposite direction, a leader needs to be confident to show their vulnerable side- this includes self-awareness that shows the leader can be multi-faceted and certainly focused at the same time.  It may not be easy to reconcile this in your mind.  As a human being, many emotions collide and keeping them bottled up really is not a good idea.  Finding ways to express emotions like frustration, confusion, regret, happiness, joy and all the rest is an art developed by experience.  Take some time to think about the many ways in which you interact with clients and colleagues.

Do you focus on building relationships instead of making transactions?  This applies to both clients and team members.  With clients, it is clear – get to know them and build the relationship so that they trust you.  As soon as trust develops, the relationship is now a two-way street and no longer about a transaction but about making both parties better.  The same applies to relationships with your team – it is not about strictly giving direction (the transaction – they do what we say). Now you are venturing into tapping into who does what best, or who needs to stretch and grow in new directions because you have gotten to know them and understand who they are and the direction in which they would like to move.

Are you interested in listening and truly understanding as opposed to glossing over objections to close the sale?  If you truly listen, you are doing so with your whole body – and seeing as well as hearing what is being said.  If you are only trying to close the sale and get the dollars, they most certainly will not stick in the future as there has not been a true effort to build trust.  By taking time to listen, even though you may not get the sale today, you have been open and vulnerable to rejection and allow the other party to learn more about you.

As a leader, you are charged with guiding others to move forward through your example. Lora Crestan Tweet this!

This could be an individual or an entire company.  How you act will define how others act.  How you develop relationships will be reflected in how your team learns to, and then builds relationships.  Your ability and courage to show vulnerability will provide a more open environment in your organization, allowing for change, personal growth and stronger bonds to develop.

 How you act will define how others act”.

Are you a Vulnerable Leader? Describe to us how you became one.


About Lora Crestan

Lora Crestan is an executive and leadership coach working with organizations that strive to build a successful company that engages, empowers and develops both their team and their clients. Lora’s focus is on ideas + action to create results.

Connect with Lora Crestan


  1. Hi Lora

    I enjoyed your post. In answer to your question about becoming a vulnerable leader, my story can be found here:


  2. Really enjoyed your article Lora. It is all about your ability and your confidence to be the real you at work. And yes it makes you vulnerable but I think only to the extent that your not comfortable and confident in yourself. When you become comfortable with who you are and ok to show your emotional investment then the vulnerability disappears. Not easy, but a great aspiration.

  3. Great post Todd. One of my favorite topics. I am reminded of a verse in the Bible that states “power is perfected in weakness”. The paradox is that vulnerability is a true sign of strength and courage. Abusive, controlling leaders reflect a form of weakness and fear. I am glad to see more and more leaders open up to the power of vulnerability. To being human.

  4. Hi Lora

    Respecting and valuing people has been a cornerstone of my work now for many years. I am a values-driven leader and wish to make a difference ~ for the better, however that is determined ~ in all those lives I touch. Notions of vulnerability and strength are intertwined for me, as becoming more emotionally aware of yourself and in tune with others, requires openness and courage. So for me, a vulnerable leader is not a weak leader.

    I also loved the phrase, like others, of “How you act will define how others act.” I also agree entirely that, “Your ability and courage to show vulnerability will provide a more open environment in your organization, allowing for change, personal growth and stronger bonds to develop!”

    Great post ~ thanks for sharing!

    Kind regards


  5. I was a very quiet child, I am still a quiet person, but I am not shy. I have always had compassion and I know I have all kinds of feelings. Even if I have never “felt” as a natural leader, I have recieved a lot of positive feedback on my leadership style – as I use to say, I am human, not a machine – and I understand that people around me are humans just like me, just as secure or insecure as me too. Treat people with respect and they will help you to become a better leader as well.

  6. Great thoughts on being able to be vulnerable as a leader. It is interesting how for many of us at times the path of distraction, suppression of emotion or avoidance of the truth of where we are at seems more appealing than the honesty of facing where are if it exposes our soft underbelly.
    The more people have the courage to drop the mask the more it will encourage others to do the same.

  7. Great ideas.

    Interestingly I was at presentation last evening which was about Generosity and Leadership. These two ideas work really well together. Both are traits which help us engage more deeply and meaningfully with people.



  8. Lora, great post on one of my favorite topics! Being vulnerable is being human. We are not machines. We have our highs and lows. A great leader demonstrates his or her innate need to connect with others. Being vulnerable is not easy, it takes raw courage. Let me share two blog-posts I wrote earlier on my personal struggles to become a better leader…
    “Naked & Unashamed: Lead Forward”
    “Leadership is Sacred Trust”

  9. interesting this Lora. Some of the most inspiring leaders I have worked with were also quick to talk about their worries and the things they didn’t feel they could contribute – but that others in the team could. Vulnerability is openly expressed self awareness which also recognizes that leaders need teams to achieve great things.

  10. Hi Lora. Thanks so much for this great post on vulnerability. I agree with your assessment that vulnerable leaders are effective leaders … and that it is ok to let someone come inside and be vulnerable.

  11. Nice post Lora. And moreover, I especially love your quote “How you act will define how others act”. So true. Showing your vulnerability is showing your courage as Brene Brown says ( ). Thus….

    Kind regards,



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