In today’s society, people in positions of power are often assumed to be strong leaders. But that’s not necessarily the case. Confused by what true leadership is, our culture is often blinded by success, money, fame and boisterousness. While those qualities may signal an individual’s measure of influence, they demonstrate nothing about their actual leadership skills.
Truth be told, the most inspiring leaders among us –– whether entrepreneurs, parents, teachers, or neighbors –– may not be the richest or the loudest or even the most accomplished. But in my opinion, there’s one quality they all share that truly sets them apart: vulnerability. Once considered a weakness, today we know true leadership hinges on a person’s ability to be vulnerable, and by extension courageous and authentic.
Researcher Dr. Brene Brown of the University of Houston agrees, stating during her now-viral 2012 TED Talk that vulnerability is the most accurate measurement of courage. Other experts show similar findings, including a study by Stephanie O. Lopez of Seattle Pacific University, which revealed that a leader’s courage in the face of great risk is empowering, and inspires ethical and pro-social behavior in followers. Being vulnerable enough to be truly authentic is also key in building trust. True leaders have high emotional intelligence and empathy, own up to mistakes, and demonstrate their vulnerability by sharing their values, beliefs and feelings.
In my latest article in Forbes, “Vulnerability is Not a Weakness, It’s Core to Effective Leadership,” I take a deeper dive into vulnerability. What are the links between vulnerability and the human connection? Why does vulnerability breeds respect? How does vulnerability lead to innovation?