What is Vulnerability-Avoidance Costing You?

Effective leaders have many qualities and skills, but none are more valuable and sought after than courage and authenticity. According to the latest research by Dr. Brené Brown, vulnerability is the birthplace of authenticity and courage.Yet vulnerability avoidance tactics are abundant in the workplace.

We mask our feelings and expect everyone around us to suck it up and power through. We judge and criticize – sometimes silently. We try to appear as if we have it all together – like we never struggle. We write-off fear, disappointment, and grief as emotions that don’t belong in the workplace even though they profoundly affect performance and productivity. We work really hard to control what others think. We crack jokes to avoid being seen. We cling tightly to perfectionism to minimize the odds of failure.

Imagine mixing one or more of these behaviors with the leadership activities listed in Vulnerability 101. Herein lies the cost.

Business results

Avoiding vulnerability…

  1. Kills trust
  2. Causes disengagement
  3. Destroys creativity and innovation
  4. Prevents learning
  5. Facilitates status quo


Leaders who practice vulnerability…

  1. Build stronger relationships because they cultivate trust
  2. Attract top talent because they stimulate engagement
  3. Solve problems faster and proactively because they foster creativity and innovation
  4. Achieve better results faster because they cultivate learning
  5. Have a competitive advantage because they maximize potential


As leaders, if we find ourselves questioning the relevance of vulnerability it’s helpful to answer the following questions:

  • How is lack of trust affecting my team? My bottom line? My customers?
  • According to Gallup, only 30% of the workforce is engaged. What would change if more people in my company were engaged?
  • How would an increase in creativity and innovation affect my customers?
  • How much time would I save if people learned what they needed to learn faster?
  • If everyone in my company reached their full potential, how would that affect my results?


Yes, vulnerability is risky, unpredictable, and scary as hell, but the costs of avoiding vulnerability are too great to ignore. Engaging with vulnerability is the heart and soul of The Daring Way™ – it’s all about showing up, being seen, and living brave.

Vulnerability 101

We’re getting ready for our Daring Leadership™ Retreat and one of the questions that continues to surface is “What does vulnerability have to do with leadership?” Before we answer that question let’s define vulnerability:

Uncertainty, emotional exposure, and risk (Dr. Brené Brown, Daring Greatly).


Now that we have a shared definition of vulnerability, think of all of the leadership activities that require vulnerability. To name a few….

  1. Admitting mistakes
  2. Giving feedback
  3. Disagreeing with someone
  4. Saying “I don’t know”
  5. Asking for help
  6. Creating a new process
  7. Sharing an idea
  8. Asking for a raise
  9. Turning down a promotion
  10. Asking for feedback

All of these activities involve some degree of uncertainty, emotional exposure, and risk. Of course there are ways to avoid vulnerability (people pleasing, avoidance, cynicism, etc.), but at what cost?

Stay tuned. Next we’ll explore the costs of avoiding vulnerability.