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7 Situations Where Vulnerability Is The Best Management Strategy


Despite your efforts to the contrary, being a leader sometimes makes it hard to let your guard down. The pressures of your role mean you sometimes need to withhold confidential information, or put on a good face during tough times. But those necessities can lead to bad habits if you aren’t careful.

As changes inside organizations accelerate, it’s pretty much impossible for one person at the top to have all the answers. Leaders from frontline managers to C-level execs all need to rely on the people around them for knowledge, support, and answers to difficult problems. And while armies of consultants, authors, and emotional-intelligence researchers (like me) have spent recent years chipping away at the myth that vulnerability is a sign of weakness, it still isn’t quite dead yet. Many leaders abstractly support the idea of being vulnerable without quite knowing how (or why)to be more vulnerable in practice.

So to help, here are a few situations where vulnerability can actually lead to better management.


Ever worked someplace where there’s an elephant in the room that nobody felt comfortable talking about? Tiptoeing around secrets or awkward situations at work can be really stressful. Everyone’s blood-pressure rises trying to figure out ways of avoiding the issue, rather than channeling those feelings into trying to solve it.

Vulnerable leaders know how to preempt this by setting a better example: “Hey, listen, this thing has been bothering me a little, and I’m wondering how you all feel about it.” Sometimes an acknowledgment like that is all it takes to get people to open up about something that seems taboo. If everyone sees that their leaders are able to bring touchy issues up for discussion respectfully, they’ll feel freer to talk about them as well.


By acknowledging that they don’t have all the answers, leaders open up more room for their team members to give feedback and allow their own ideas to be considered. Sometimes when your team is stuck on a problem or needs to think a bit more creatively, the best thing a manager can do is admit their own mistakes or the limits of their own thinking.

Maybe you’ve made a couple poor decisions recently, or perhaps you’ve just run out of ideas. By confiding in your team about that–or by showing them you’re able to forgive yourself for a recent mess-up–you’ll let them know it’s okay to take risks and try something new and untried, even if it’s unsuccessful. This leads to more ideas coming forward that might have stayed under wraps, ultimately creating a more dynamic, competitive organization.

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