Magazine Article | January 31, 2020

Why Vulnerability Is A Leadership Superpower

Source: Life Science Leader

By Denise Cannon

You were a rising star in your company and promoted to a leadership role. You’ve been given management tools and a crash course in leadership. Deep inside, you strive to be the sort of leader that empowers, motivates, and brings out the best in your team. How can you become your ideal version of a leader?


  • Prove yourself.
  • Climb the ladder.
  • Show return on value.
  • Think. Build. Do. Profit.

Now, you want to be inspiring.


  • Be human, that’s why we hired you.
  • Please fail. And try again.
  • Remember, uncertainty is the only constant.
  • Believe. Create. Do Good. Profit.

Sound a little more aspirational and something you’d want to be a part of? If so, then let’s learn how to tap into the superpower you already have — vulnerability.


One of a leader’s most important traits is authenticity (i.e., the degree to which an individual’s actions are in harmony with beliefs and desires despite external pressures). But to be truly authentic requires a willingness to be vulnerable (i.e., the state of being open, transparent, porous, and setting the intention to consciously choose to reveal who you are over what you do). Being vulnerable requires putting yourself out there, being seen, and being okay with asking more questions than having answers. It requires sharing your certainty and uncertainty, confidence and concerns, and hopes and fears regarding the business with the team you lead. Because when a leader is authentically vulnerable, it creates a safe place for others to authentically give of themselves, too. This means not wearing a job title as if it were body armor, but rather, developing deep connections on the basis of being genuinely curious about one another.

"When a leader is authentically vulnerable, it creates a safe place for others to authentically give of themselves, too."

Not long ago, a group of 30 senior executives was brought together to uncover how they could transform their leadership within their organizations, with the starting point being themselves. For two hours, they shared personal and professional wins and losses (i.e., those low points we typically don’t look to share). While not a comfortable experience, being vulnerable allowed real movement to happen. Now ask yourself, “When was the last time your leadership team was so honest with each other? Moreover, when was the last time you were honest with yourself — in front of your peers or subordinates?”


To unlock your vulnerability superpower, try these reframes:


• title hiding
• answer giving
• professionally guarded


• genuine connecting
• question asking
• professionally human

And ask yourself:

  • What is the most open and real way I can connect with my team?
  • What am I most afraid of sharing?
  • How can I serve them most powerfully?

The real connection between leaders and those they serve comes from not only seeing what others experience, but being brave (i.e., vulnerable) enough to say, “Yes. I feel that way, too,” and that common ground is where honesty, trust, and solutions reside.

DENISE CANNON is an award-winning experience strategist and coach who helps visionary leaders create transformational experiences for their employees, constituents, and the world. She is a certified professional coach and master energy leadership practitioner.