Authentic Leadership and Vulnerability: How They’re Connected

What is the relationship between authentic leadership and vulnerability, exactly?

In order to be authentic, and to express authentic leadership… you need to be vulnerable.

That’s probably scary for a lot of you.

I know it can be scary for me at times, but it doesn’t really have to be.

To be an authentic leader in business, you do need to be vulnerable.

If you listen to what Brene Brown has to say in her famous TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” she says:


“Vulnerability is… having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”

In this sense, vulnerability doesn’t mean weakness. It just means showing up. It also doesn’t mean showing up by yelling really loudly either. It means showing up and being willing to open up and be genuine with people.

Every time I do an Accelerated Leadership Program, I show Brene Brown’s TED Talk.

At the end of the video, people have a sense of what it really means to show up regardless of the outcome. They recognize that they’re unique, and their vulnerability is a key ingredient to showing up authentically in their careers and places of work…

But the reaction I get so many times is, “Well, that’s great. I can do that in my personal life, but I can’t do that in business.”

So I ask them: Do you know anyone in business, either in our company or outside of our company that you believe is a leader that shows up authentically?

Of course, without exception, they always come up with names. One of the names that came up at our company was Tom Rothman. He was one of our chairmen at Fox.

The thing about Tom was, he was intense. He was passionate. But he was also vulnerable and available. You knew where he stood on things. He was open and real and honest with you – and you knew where you stood with him. Because you knew where you stood with him, it was an exchange that sort of happened where you felt connected to him.

If I’m vulnerable with you and you’re vulnerable with me, our connection is going to get deeper. We’re going to develop a higher level of trust and respect, and that trust and respect that we have with each other will develop into loyalty. There’s a lot of stickiness and retention that’s built around being vulnerable and connected people.

I have an expression that we use at our company all the time: we are better together than we are alone. That just doesn’t mean being physically present. It means being connected and developing that trust and respect. Vulnerability is an incredibly powerful tool in achieving this sort of enduring bond.

I refer to vulnerability all the time in my workplace activities. I suggest that you take a deeper look and see how you can develop it more effectively too – and through you personal experience and effort, develop a functional knowledge of the relationship between authentic leadership and vulnerability.

That’s it for today. Best of luck!

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