top of page

When Vulnerability is a Power

By Laurence Levêque, Executive Coach

It's 2:30 p.m. My colleague Rolf has just finished to present the topic of difficult conversations. The audience is the management team we have been coaching for a few months. In difficult conversations something important to oneself is at stake, they provoke in ourselves difficult emotions, or even reactions that we are not always proud of.

So, we are with the team. We need a volunteer for a demonstration, someone who would dare to tell a story about a moment he or she had difficulty coping with. ...

And it is the boss who raises his hand. He stands in front of Rolf and accepts to be questioned in front of his team. For the past 2 years, he has been leading a profound transformation of the organisation: switching to agile mode, rationalising service providers, new organisation and new roles for the 300 employees. He has spent a lot of time convincing his teams and peers of the value of the approach, and also of the time needed to see the impact for internal customers.

And then it happens: he shows his vulnerability and shares a recent conversation with a ComEx colleague about this transformation, he dares to express that he was unsettled by the feedback he received, talks about his anger and doubts. It is an intense moment and the silence of the group is deep.

When we then suggest to the group that they get into pairs to also share a difficult conversation experience, we feel that everyone is ready to dare to exchange on real subjects.

It was one of the best sessions we ever had with this group.

What happened?

This leader showed that he was a human being, not perfect, vulnerable. At the same time, he proved that he wants to progress, understand himself, improve. He speaks with openness about the difficulties that also exist at the level of the ComEx team, about the relationships with his peers.

The impact is multiple for his team:

  • It builds psychological safety in a team, which is an important pillar for everyone to bring their best to the team and thus increase performance.

  • It helps people to dare "put down the mask" of perfection and performance that they wear in the company, which is a key step for individual and collective development

  • It creates a different kind of relationship in the team. The heart-to-heart connection is much more intense than the thought-to-thought connection. The intangible bonds between team members are strengthened.

What does this mean for leaders?

  • To grow, you need to be aware of where you are. As a leader, having this awareness is key. Sharing it allows you to challenge others on their own development.

  • In this world of search for perfection, having different models of leadership liberates and allows you to build yourself differently

  • Trust is also built through this capacity to open and speak truthfully, and this is the first step in building a high-performance team.

Without overdoing, knowing how to show your teams your doubts and questions is a form of power, contrary to what some might think.


bottom of page