The Vulnerability Quest

There is much to like about the research and video presentation(s) on vulnerability by Dr. Brene Brown as she makes a powerful case for leaders (and all of us) to strive for this worthy state.

Living vulnerably involves risk and great reward.  Let us look at vulnerability through a few different lenses to illustrate that accepting vulnerability as a process of becoming enables all of us the opportunity to embark on a quest.  A true quest is full of peaks and valleys, laughter and tears, agony and well… you get the picture.

In short, vulnerability is not easy.  And, as we know, nothing worthwhile is.

Dr. Brown speaks to the characteristics of wholehearted people which include courage, compassion, and connection. Expanding on the topic of connection, she remarks that authenticity is key.  In my experience:

Authenticity will prove to be an invaluable ally on your quest towards vulnerability.

We all have our personal demons and leaders are no exception.  In my work with leaders who surmounted significant physical, psychological, and spiritual crises, I discovered that, to a one, authentic leader behavior occurred in place of heretofore harmful leader behaviors.  Studies reveal stories (qualitative research) and numbers (quantitative research) that illustrate the powerful benefit authenticity provides to a leader’s followers, peers, and organization.

One study, based on a study of 49 service industry teams, revealed authentic leadership behavior was found to be a precursor of perceptions of leader behavioral integrity, which then leads to both follower organizational commitment and work role performance (Leroy, et al., 2012).  As to performance, see our brief survey for team leaders available on our site.

Another point that Brene Brown makes is that we are never more vulnerable than when we are learning something new. Those of you who have discovered a new calling or career and proceeded to seize the opportunity know exactly of which I speak. Experts on the topic of learning organizations such as Peter Senge have advocated for settings where mistakes are expected and encouraged to co-construct the best of all possible solutions.

As vulnerability involve deep trust, another leadership practice has presented.  For decades, when teams function poorly, an accepted practice has revolved around group intervention leading to getting things back on the right tract.  I have coordinated a number of these with good outcomes but any one method is not foolproof (as I learned in the paragraph below).

True confession! Years ago, I conducted a team intervention with a healthcare organization which was a stellar success.  Several months later, a request for another team presented (same company) and the team intervention fell flat – little change in team deficiencies.  I now realize that following “accepted practices” can be highly ineffective.  Hindsight showed me that the leadership skills of the second leader were light years behind the practices of the first and leader intervention was where my focus should have been placed for the second group. In short, there was considerable trust evident in the first group and little between the leader and followers in the second group.

The alternative method relates to Roussin’s (2008) findings that leaders meeting with team members 1:1 (in contrast to group intervention) provided the most successful resolution to team dysfunction which then led to trust, safety, and team performance.  In short, leaders who engaged (1:1 conversations) with team members discovered methods and means to effectively customize leadership behaviors to increase trust, psychological safety, and team performance.  And for these crucial conversations, authenticity is essential.  Thus, leader development (baseline and coaching) is a crucial investment for all organizations.

Acknowledging where you are enables you to move toward where you want to go.

Contact us for a gratis consultation to explore and enhance your authenticity – a proven method to enrich your leadership skills.

We look forward to your input, comments, and questions.

Stay safe and well!


Joe Lemmon, PhD










Leroy, H., Palanski, M. E., & Simons, T. (2012). Authentic leadership and behavioral integrity as drivers of follower commitment and performance

Roussin, C. J. (2008). Increasing trust, psychological safety, and team performance through dyadic leadership discovery. Small Group Research39(2), 224-248.


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