Being Vulnerable And Authentic: The Keys To Effective Leadership by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

Over time, the role and the image of effective leadership have changed dramatically. In the not-too-distant past, leaders were individuals who had all the answers, made all the decisions, and operated at a level that was beyond question for those lower down the corporate or business ladder.

Today, the idea of leadership has evolved. Leaders are no longer required to be people who know everything, never make a bad decision, and who must perform to some impossible level of perfection. This is not to say that leaders don’t feel pressure to be the best they can be and to make the right decisions, but effective leaders also understand the importance of being authentic and vulnerable.

What Is Vulnerability in Leadership?

Vulnerability is not the same as weakness. It is also not feeling the need to share every challenge and issue you may be facing as a leader. Rather, it is the ability to accept that you may not have all the answers or that someone else may be a better fit to lead a project or to manage a given situation.

Being vulnerable is not a comfortable place for many people, particularly if they feel pressure to always be the person with the answers and who knows the next best step. It can be a place where you have self-doubts about what to share, how much to share, and who to share it with.

At the same time, vulnerability means a more human connection with others. A leader who is able to be vulnerable can talk to a team member who is struggling or facing a challenge to make a meaningful connection. They can offer support on a compassionate level. They can also become comfortable in accepting the help of others, delegating leadership roles to other team members, and in modeling the ability to recognize your limits and put the best people in the right positions.

Authenticity in Leadership

Authenticity goes hand-in-hand with vulnerability. It would be virtually impossible to be one without the other. Authenticity means showing up every day as who you really are, not as a version of yourself you use on the job.

An authentic leader is compassionate, empathetic, and honest. You know your limitations and your abilities and accept and embrace them. At the same time, you also accept and embrace the abilities of others and find ways to genuinely recognize these talents, gifts, and skills in a way that lifts everyone. Authentic leaders celebrate the success of teams and individuals without putting on a show or simply going through the motions, and it is a genuine celebration of both their own abilities as well as those around them.