Vulnerability in Leadership Vulnerability in Leadership

Updated: January 2024

Thinking about how to present when the goal is being a good servant leader to your team and a respected manager within the company as a whole.

Be Vulnerable:

Within your org

Assuming servant leadership is your thing, this is the place to model it. As a leader if you want to support people, you need to let them support you. The’ll never ask for help if you don’t model that vulnerability for them. By talking a bit about your challenges and how they (specifically or generally) can help you, when you turn it around and ask what their challenges are and how you can help, the scene will be set. Authentic connections with your people is a must as a leader, and those connections come from sharing.

In smaller meetings

In meetings with others outside your org, if it’s a small meeting, that’s a great time to be human. Maybe not all small meetings, but generally, these are the meetings where you can really make a connection with people.

Be Confident:

Outside your org

Meeting with a team that doesn’t know you as well? Be prepared and demonstrate that you know your stuff. There are the old stores about Bill Gates deeply learning another teams domain before meeting with them, and then asking them specific questions. It’s a bit of a power move for sure. But, if you’re not a jerk about it, you get you knowledge about that team and they learn that you know where they’re coming from. Demonstrating knowledge gives them confidence to rely on you in the future.

In larger meetings

Giving a talk to the whole company, or presenting as part of all hands? Be prepared enough to be authentically confident. As above, don’t be pompous jerk about it. Being prepared and knowledgeable is a key value to project outward to the company as a whole. Though you can be early to a meeting and make a little small talk.

Different personas for different arenas

I really like Columbo. He comes across as a bit of a bumbling detective, which gets people to open up to him much more than a more authoritative detective would. It’s kinda the persona I adopt when managing. Be humble, ask obvious questions, but let the stellar results speak for themselves. However, when dealing with higher ups or folks who don’t see the results as clearly, adopting a more traditional persona is needed.

The goal is for people to both trust you and feel that they can approach you. People near you will use what they know of your humanity to decide if they can reach out, people further from you will use how well you fit traditional expectations to decide.