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Why leadership requires a display of vulnerability

Written by: on  May 24, 2010

The dated way to assert big boss status was to appear perfect and all knowing. Vulnerability was a weakness and frowned upon in leadership.

But trying to appear to be good at everything removes humanity and humility. Leaders need to find the balance between showing too little vulnerability and what London Business School Professor Rob Goffee calls “Fatal Weaknesses.”

In the book “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You” Goffee explains that leaders need to show skill to gain legitimacy but cannot gain real influence without sharing some weaknesses as well.

I know that as a Gen Y, I have a hard time taking anyone serious that seems inauthentic. When someone has the confidence to look me in the eye and tell me their strengths and downfalls I give respect. The admission of imperfection is a really positive character trait.

Just think when Obama admitted to smoking weed on TV; he said, “Yeah I inhaled.. frequently, that was the point!” Although this isn’t a great thing for someone running for presidency to admit, I would think that he gained more points for being honest, a trait we all crave in a leader. Imagine he said, like Clinton, “I smoked but didn’t inhale.” Isn’t honesty refreshing?

So why would anyone follow you? Would you follow/like yourself if you met yourself?



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