In the realm of leadership, vulnerability is often viewed as a sign of weakness. However, research and real-world examples demonstrate that embracing vulnerability can actually be a strength, fostering trust, connection, and innovation within teams. In this article, we’ll explore why vulnerability is essential for effective leadership and offer practical tips for how leaders can cultivate authenticity and openness in the workplace.

Lead by Example with Vulnerability:

As a leader, your actions speak louder than words. Model vulnerability by openly sharing your own challenges, failures, and insecurities with your team. Especially in your one-on-one meetings, aim to create a safe space by letting people know that it’s okay to be open about their mental state, difficulties in their personal lives that may impact how they show up day-to-day at work, and any obstacles they may be facing in their roles. You can’t help a team member, or offer them accommodations, if they aren’t open with you about what they need. Similarly, your team can’t perform at their best if they’re burned out, pent up, or struggling silently. By demonstrating authenticity and transparency, you create a culture where others feel safe to do the same.

Foster Psychological Safety:

Team psychological safety refers to a collective belief among team members that it is safe to take risks, voice ideas and concerns, ask questions, and acknowledge mistakes without facing adverse repercussions. In a study done by Mckinsey & Company, just 26 percent of leaders create psychological safety for their teams. Not sure if your team has psychological safety? Look at this survey below by Amy Edmondson, the Harvard Business School professor and author of The Fearless Organization, who coined the phrase “team psychological safety”.

How people answer these questions will give you a sense of the degree to which they feel psychologically safe:

  1. If you make a mistake on this team, it is not held against you.
  2. Members of this team are able to bring up problems and tough issues.
  3. People on this team sometimes accept others for being different.
  4. It is safe to take a risk on this team.
  5. It isn’t difficult to ask other members of this team for help.
  6. No one on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts.
  7. Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilized.


Embrace Imperfection through Risk Taking & Innovation:

This one goes hand in hand with the first tip we shared. According to McKinsey, 87% of executives believe innovation is essential to their organization’s success and growth. However, you only will get true innovation when employees don’t feel that they will be penalized for sharing their ideas and opinions, even if they are unconventional. By fostering a psychologically safe environment, you empower employees to think outside the box and pursue innovative solutions.

Build Trusting Relationships with Vulnerability:

Invest time and effort in building authentic relationships with your team members. The Harvard Business Review shared an incredibly powerful statistic: Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout. Listen attentively to your team members without judgment or interruption.

In workplaces where employees are prioritized, trust flourishes. To cultivate belief in your leadership and foster shared goals, prioritize your team’s well-being and empower them. When employers fail to meet employees’ expectations for equitable treatment, trust erodes, and empowerment fades. The Trust Barometer image below vividly illustrates the disparity between what employees expect and what employers provide.

Trust is the foundation of effective leadership, and vulnerability is key to building trust.

Be Authentic and Consistent:

It is reported that Only 18% of individuals trust business leaders, to tell the truth. Taking it a step further, close to 50% of managers do not trust their own leaders to do the right thing. However, where authenticity is encouraged, employee production increases by 20%.  Be true to yourself and your values as a leader, both in good times and bad. Avoid putting on a facade or pretending to have all the answers. Your authenticity will resonate with your team and inspire trust and loyalty. To excel as a genuine and impactful leader, self-awareness is key. This entails recognizing your strengths, weaknesses, and core beliefs. Without understanding these aspects of yourself, authenticity in leadership becomes unattainable.


In today’s fast-paced and competitive work environment, vulnerability is often overlooked or misunderstood. However, leaders who embrace vulnerability as a strength can foster deeper connections, build trust, and drive innovation within their teams. By leading by example, fostering psychological safety, embracing imperfection, building trusting relationships, encouraging risk-taking, practicing active listening, and being authentic and consistent, leaders can create workplaces where employees feel valued, supported, and empowered to reach their full potential. Remember, vulnerability is not a weakness—it’s a superpower that can transform your leadership and your organization for the better.