The Most Overlooked Leadership Skill

Here is a list I found from Forbes titled, “Top 10 Qualities that Make a Great Leader“.  Pretty good list.  However, I truly believe there is a gapping hole in this list.  What powerful leadership skill is being overlooked?

I think it’s an extremely simple skill and maybe that is exactly why it is overlooked and often difficult to master.

The skill: Vulnerability Screen-shot-2012-08-09-at-9.21.01-AM

As most of you have already jumped to a conclusion on my addition, I’m going to ask you to pump the brakes for a definition of vulnerable.

vul·ner·a·ble: susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm. (Of a person) in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect.

There is some very powerful language used in this definition.  Here are a few impactful words that really stand out to me.

  • Susceptible
  • Attack
  • Harm
  • Support
  • Risk

Immediately this doesn’t feel right.  It feels to me like a “vulnerable” leader is a weak leader.  Not exactly the skill set pouring out of leadership books for the last 20 years.  However, is the world different today than it was 20 years ago?

Team members and successful organizations today want to have something to believe in.  More to the point, they want to work with someone they can TRUST.  There are many ways to earn trust, but I think one way is to open up and show your true colors.  Possibly even more important, showcase you don’t know everything and have made mistakes.

Transparency is a word I’m not terribly fond of currently because of its massive overuse in political jockeying.  But, transparency is a reality of being vulnerable.

The vulnerable leader understands better than most their strengths, and the biggest time saver of all, their weaknesses.  The vulnerable leader knows what they don’t know.  The vulnerable leader has struggles (as we all do) in life and isn’t afraid to let others in to see the real person battling these struggles.  The vulnerable leader is a servant leader.

Contrast this with the old school leaders we learned about growing up.  The leaders who pushed with an iron fist, strong will, and an indestructible armor of confidence.

The reason the vulnerable leader will continue to gain traction and transcend board rooms is simple.  There are far too many choices today to work for the selfish leader.  Business success is about having great relationships.  How many great relationships are you in today where the cornerstone of trust was laid with vulnerability?

ACTION ITEMS: It’s okay to let others in and let them see the real you.  I can promise you, it’s far more rewarding than obsessing over the maintenance of perfection.