Vulnerability in Leadership



There is no room for ego in leadership today. Yes, this may be a strong statement to make, but I really believe it and I see it at play in organizations all the time.

Allow me to elaborate. In his book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith recognized as one of the top ten most-influential business thinkers in the world and the top-ranked executive coach, wrote that there are 20 behaviors successful leaders need to stop doing in order to become even more successful. He calls them “challenges in interpersonal behavior”, or “transactional flaws performed by one person against the other.” The idea is that by correcting these behaviors, leaders are much more likely to succeed because they will turn people into allies instead of constantly alienating them.  


I will not take you through the twenty behaviors, you will need to read the book to discover them; but amongst these behaviors, are five I would like to focus on, which are related to the leader’s ego.


1.       “Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations—when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.”

2.       “Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.”

3.       “Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.”

4.       “Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.”

5.       “An excessive need to be me: exalting our faults as virtues simply because they are who we are.”

Do you recognize yourself in any of the above behaviors? Be honest with yourself. When was the last time you had a discussion you absolutely had to add your two cents worth of knowledge to while thinking to yourself “it’s really important information that I must share with the world. I can’t deny the world my brilliance!”? Or when was the last time someone was telling you something and in your head you were saying “what an idiot! I can’t believe I’m wasting my time listening to this loser!” simply because they were expressing an opinion completely different to yours and with which you didn’t agree at all?


 In order to succeed as a leader you need to win people over and to win people over you need to cast your ego aside and stop it from running the show. In one of their researches on why followers follow certain leaders, Gallup found that trust closely followed by authenticity are two of the attributes that followers look for in leaders that inspire them (as described in their book Strengths-based Leadership). 


People can’t be fooled by masks anymore. They can see right through them and into the very core of their leaders. When the ego is in control, others don’t seem to matter, stories you tell yourself as a leader become your reality regardless of the truth behind them. The ego is not interested in authenticity or a genuine approach; it is interested in constantly shining no matter what.


In her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brené Brown defines authenticity as “a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” And this is how courage is born. True leaders are able to deeply connect with their followers without worrying about how they will be perceived and judged. Brené Brown defines connection “as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” How amazing would it be if all leaders were able to build such connection with their followers?


A leader who is able to stop faulty behavior, become more authentic and find the courage to truly connect and show up, is a leader who is not afraid to be vulnerable. “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.”  (Brené Brown)


Vulnerability should be at the heart of a true leader. In vulnerability lies self-acceptance and where there’s self-acceptance there is no need for perfection and no need to be right. When you accept things as they are, imperfect but real, you let go of the need to be in control and only then will you be able to experience connection. “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” Where there is vulnerability, there is definitely no room for the ego!




About Rawan Albina

Rawan Albina is a successful self-made Executive and Leadership Coach who has coached more than 150 individuals from 60 different nationalities all over the Middle East. She is one of the eleven Professional Certified Coaches (PCC) in the Middle East. She also served for 10 years as a manager and leader with multinationals Tetra Pak and Nestlé.

Rawan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics and is a graduate of the prestigious Coaches Training Institute. She is certified in the FIRO and WPB5 assessment tools. She is a proud member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC).



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