Leadership and Vulnerability


I prefer to not be singled out in a group to answer a question.  I am a processor.  I am happy to talk, but I like to have plenty of thinking time before I have to open my mouth.

Awhile back, I attended an event where I was in a group with a bunch of high-powered church administrators. I was new to the group, so they wanted to hear all about me (Really, I am not that interesting!) and a ton from me.

At one point, the whole table I was at turned to me and asked, “What would you say is the greatest leadership trait?”  No pressure!

Most people in the room had said smart things like:

  • They delegate
  • They are confident
  • They motivate
  • They are vision casters
  • They are responsible
  • Etc.

All good answers.

But that’s not what I said. My answer? “They are vulnerable.”

It slipped out before I could stop it, and I was immediately like “Crap! That sounds like such a dumb answer!”

Until I noticed the silence at my table. One of the guys finally spoke and said, “This is a first.  In all of my years, I have never heard anyone say the number one leadership characteristic they can think of is vulnerability…but I like it!”

Whew! Maybe it wasn’t so dumb! 🙂

The rest of the table joined in the conversation, and I told them that I feel like vulnerability requires a quiet, confident, secure strength that is extremely rare. If a leader can be vulnerable, you can bet they are honest.  You can be assured that they are trustworthy and responsible. Vulnerable people are confident…because what do they have to lose? For me, vulnerability wraps up pretty much all of the characteristics of good leaders up with a nice bow. Leaders who are able to truly be vulnerable are people I’ll jump on the boat with in a heartbeat to follow.

This morning, I was thinking about Jesus. Talk about vulnerable. He came to earth as a baby. He hung out with the not-so-cool crowd. He put himself in danger standing up against the important people of the day. He allowed himself to be mocked, ridiculed, shamed and ultimately killed. He didn’t want the world’s power. And He is the greatest leader who has ever lived.

Everything about the Kingdom of Heaven is so opposite from what we think and want for our lives. We want, expect and work so hard for things that we think will benefit us…where we should be wanting things for others. We should be losing ourselves among Kingdom things. Losing our old selves and finding a new, free identity in Christ! Instead of wearing ourselves out trying to look important, we should be humbling ourselves, being open and honest, and doing what it takes to make things better for others.  There is more power and love in that! Bringing the Kingdom down to earth a little more each day.

It seems a little weird, but there is great power in being vulnerable. People respect it. It’s different. Our culture teaches us that we have to try to be the best, not make mistakes, cover up any faults and try to look better than we actually are. It’s so freeing when you break out of this thinking. When you can truly be yourself confident in Who you belong to and how much you are loved.

We serve a vulnerable God. Let’s go be more like Him! 🙂

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