top of page
  • Writer's pictureKent Chevalier

The Power of Vulnerability

Vulnerable. What do you think of when you hear that word? 

If you look up ‘vulnerable’ in the dictionary, you’ll see the negative definitions of danger or weakness. To be vulnerable is to be “unguarded and unsafe,” To be vulnerable is to be “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm,” or “in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect.” 

I don’t disagree with these definitions, but I also think there’s a powerful flip side to being purposefully vulnerable with the right people at the right time.

When it comes to leadership, I believe there is tremendous power in appropriate vulnerability.

I recently had coffee with a friend. This friend is a powerful leader. He leads a company with tremendous impact. His story has influenced tens of thousands. He is the type of leader who attracts and serves leaders of leaders. He opened up to me that he was struggling. From his online presence and social media posts, I would have never guessed that he was hurting in this way. He shared with me some mistakes he had made in his company and how he didn’t know if he and his company were going to make it.

This took tremendous courage. This took serious guts. This powerful leader was vulnerable with me. He risked it and opened himself up. While I was surprised by what he shared, it caused me to lean in with him all the more. His vulnerability did not repel me from his leadership. It attracted me even more to his leadership.

That is the power of vulnerability.

Now, there is a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate vulnerability in leadership. We have to use our emotional intelligence when we choose to be vulnerable. Not everything that we’re going through or have gone through is meant to be shared with everyone, and we have to learn to “read the room” before we go there.

Have you ever been in a meeting where a leader crossed this line by oversharing? A person with the mic took too much liberty and made the entire room uncomfortable or maybe the information hurt people unnecessarily. This is why a leader must learn the art of appropriate vulnerability.

When it comes to appropriate vulnerability, I suggest three stages or levels of sharing.

1. Share enough with the crowds.

Example 1: I watched as a respected pastor had to navigate the public announcement of a church employee being fired due to a moral failure. He gave just enough information to the congregation to let them know that it was a serious moral issue, but he would not field any further questions. 

Some might say this is controlling the narrative, but this high level of vulnerability is appropriate for the crowd to know that something bad happened and was dealt with by leadership. 

Example 2: This past weekend, I was preaching on the storms of life. To help people understand that I also deal with the storms of life, I told the crowd about the death of my brother, and how this devastated me. I shared at a high level that I didn’t know how I was going to make it through. I shared that I battled depression, sleepless nights, and horrible thoughts, but I didn’t share what those thoughts were and the details of my grieving process. 

This high level of vulnerability helped me connect with the crowd about the storms we all face, but I did not share intimate details.

2. Share a little extra with your team.

Example 1: I watched as that pastor gathered his staff and shared more details about the church employee who was fired. The discipline process that was walked through with this person. The time frame of the process. He did this to equip his team if anyone would field questions or gossip.

This level of vulnerability provides confidence in the leadership and systems. This equips your team without digging into the details of why because they already knew the why with the crowd.

Example 2: I was comfortable letting people know that I was in therapy following my brother’s death. I was not okay, and I wanted people to know that. What I did not do was share the details of why I was in therapy, and I was okay with letting them believe it was simply for my brother’s death. I simply let them know that my brother’s death unlocked a lot of “stuff” in my life.

This level of vulnerability allowed people to pray for me and empathize with me. 

3. Share everything with your spouse, trusted friend(s), and/or therapist.

Example 1: This pastor had an executive leadership team and a board of elders to help walk him through how to fire the employee. They knew everything. He shared the details of the moral failure, and they were a sounding board for him and collective wisdom. 

This level of vulnerability allows a leader to know they’re not alone in carrying that burden. This tight circle of trust empowers everyone to be fully known, fully loved, and fully challenged. 

Example 2: After my brother’s death, I tightened my “circle of trust” to four people only. I shared everything with my wife, my therapist, my best friend, and my faith mentor. Depending on their relationship role was the level at which I shared, but between all of them, everything is known, and I’m accountable to them.

This level of vulnerability is a responsibility that must be agreed upon and given permission. This is where your warts are not covered, and you grant them access to challenge you for your betterment. This is a scary yet freeing place to live. 

Enough. Extra. Everything. Maybe this will help you like it has helped me.

While vulnerability is scary, it is also powerful. It’s where a new level of freedom is found. If you’re scared to be vulnerable, good. 

Do it anyway. Do it appropriately.


bottom of page