The Power of Vulnerability

There is a reliable movie trope that suggests the best way to get ahead in business is to be a complete jerk. Whether it’s Gordon Gecko (Wall Street), Lex Luthor (Superman) or Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada), we’re consistently told that the people at the top of organizations got there by climbing over the bodies of their rivals and treating their people like dirt.

Of course, there are plenty of real-life leaders who have made a career out of proving Hollywood right, with legendary tales of employee mistreatment and a refusal to connect with the workers who make their business tick.

Times change though.

Today’s emerging leaders aren’t afraid to expose their softer side to their teams. Where it was once considered a sign of weakness to show vulnerability, a new generation of CEOs is now admitting to personal blindspots, sharing personal tragedies, inviting people into their homes, and demonstrating that there is more to a boss than just business.

Lifting the curtain to show employees ‘the real CEO’ doesn’t come easily to all. At Boldsquare, we’ve spent many hundreds of hours helping leaders get comfortable opening up about their personal journey and their true selves. We’ve watched and guided as executives have taken one step forward and two steps back at times, as they’ve calibrated what works and what doesn’t. But we’ve also seen incredible progress in employee engagement and retention as leaders have begun to humanize themselves further.

The reality is that today’s talent is not motivated by spreadsheets and posters. They want to believe that they work for people and causes that are inspiring, and they want to feel proud of being on the team. They want to feel a genuine and authentic sense of connection, and that demands that leaders think and act in a wholly different way.

Recording that video for employees at the kitchen table, or sharing a way in which you let the company down may feel awkward, vulnerable and painful at first. Get it right, however, and the engagement and loyalty you'll gain in return will be more-than-adequate compensation.