When you hear the term leader, most likely an array of adjectives come to mind. Some may include courageous, strong, powerful, assertive and so on.

Rarely would you think of vulnerability as a trait equating with leadership. Those within leadership positions in a company may even believe that displaying signs of vulnerability to your team is a sign of weakness.

But I’m here to tell you that view is wrong. And they couldn’t be more mistaken.

In reality, vulnerability is a strength.
All great leaders have vulnerability.
So, in order to help you grow into a more powerful and courageous leader, I want you to be vulnerable.

In my interview with Patrick Lencioni in the February issue of SUCCESS, he said, “Start by coming to terms with your own vulnerability as a leader and then translate that to your team and then the rest of the organization.”

This reminds me of something Waldo Waldmen, a good friend of mine, said.  He was a Top Gun fighter pilot, like the ones you saw in the movie Top Gun with Tom Cruz as Maverick and his co-pilot Goose. Well, Waldo said he learned a great deal about leadership from that experience.

He explained after the end of every mission they would have a debriefing. He said before it started, everyone was required to first TAKE OFF their name tags and their rank. Now with an even playing field, they would go over the good, the bad, and the ugly of the mission.  And then the leader would take the lead, admitting their own mistakes first.

This process is what they knew as exposing your chest to daggers—meaning showing your own vulnerability first. What this does is it creates an environment for the new hires, the young wingmen, and the young folks that are in the formation to say, “You know what? If so and so, the flight lead, or so and so, the Top Gun, is going to share his or her mistakes, then I can do the same thing.”

But it has to come from the top down and a lot of times, it means being a little more vulnerable, a little bit more honest and open with some of the things that are going on. He said the key is to show you are a human being first and a Top Gun or high-ranking officer second.

Now think about your own leadership meetings when you are doing an after action review on a project, meeting or client engagement. Do YOU start the meeting by exposing your mistakes first?

Now I’m not talking about the passive aggressive admitting of a mistake like, “I never should have trusted so and so with this project or that responsibility.” That is the opposite of taking responsibility and exposing YOUR failings, and I see and hear that all the time.

No really, where did YOU underperform?
What did you do wrong?
What bad call or bad move did you make?
What did you not anticipate, plan or prepare for?

Be the first to throw your mistakes, thus vulnerability, on the table.
As a leader, it’s important you lead by example and set the pace.

Many years ago I had a conversation with Les Brown after he attended a keynote I did, and he gave me some really great advice. He said, “You are a compelling speaker and certainly you have had a tremendous track record of success, but that won’t help you truly connect, empower and influence an audience.”

He continued,

“You can’t just talk to people’s heads or only appeal to their intelligence. You have to talk to their hearts. You can’t move people with logic. They cannot just hear you. They have to feelyou. And they will only feel you if they know you. Not your title or resume or track record of success, but your story, the whole story—the failures, shortcomings, fears and pitfalls—the whole truth of who you really are and how you got here. Both the triumphant and the terrible. This is what will make you real and make yourself available to be connected to.”

This was a real awakening for me and a fantastic insight. You’ll even notice a dramatic difference between my first book The Compound Effect and The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster. You get a real insight into the true journey I took to create what you now see as the entrepreneur success story, but it has been a wild ride of failures, defeats, set-backs, and ego-bruising along the way.

I learned some really valuable lessons and the book is designed to save you from suffering some of the same consequences, and to ultimately accelerate your success. BUT you will learn a lot more about my personal journey in The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster than you might have even learned about me in The Compound Effect.

This is thanks to learning that while people may be inspired by your success, they are empowered by knowing that you too, like them, have failed, and they too, like you, CAN succeed.

And that is what I am after—helping you realize that YES—YOU. CAN. DO. THIS.

In general, I believe we are in an era of authenticity.
People want to connect with what’s real, open, honest, transparent and authentic.

If you want to be a leader today, then one of your greatest keys is to open yourself up to others.
Be real, lead by example in your honesty and openness.
If people can feel you and connect with you, they will charge through walls for you.
That is real leadership, real influence, real achievement.


By Darren Hardy