The Employer Engagement Guide: Should Managers Show a Vulnerable Side?

MT Engagement Guide Avatar 1@2x AUTHOR

Ryan Kaye

- March 13th, 2023
Employer Hub

Welcome to Part 12 of the Employer Engagement Guide. Here are a few benefits of embracing vulnerability as a manager and why more leaders should do so.

Vulnerable managers

The term ‘vulnerability’ can instil terror in many souls. Then, couple that with ‘in the office’, and it strikes even more fear. Showing our more vulnerable side is something a lot of us associate with weakness. However, a vulnerability in leadership isn’t at all – it’s quite the opposite.

Psssst! Vulnerability is the star ingredient that makes you the best leader you can be and, heck, even the best person you can be. We recommend taking a test drive in your company. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at why showing vulnerability in the workplace is worth its weight in gold.

The meaning of vulnerability in leadership

vulnerability in the workplace

Despite what many people often think, showing your vulnerability doesn’t mean sharing your most personal, deepest secrets, so they’re all on show. It means avoiding pretences, being yourself, and loosening up a little.

Showing vulnerability is taking part in life and devoting yourself to something. A manager who reveals their vulnerability is a person who isn’t obliged to be the first to respond or think up a bright idea.

Vulnerability in the workplace entails changing your state of mind so you perceive things through your team’s eyes. In doing so, you encourage those you lead to direct discussions. The outcome? They become more invested and immersed.

Showing vulnerability in the workplace

Vulnerability enables you to be your real self – it’s a formidable tool you can use to empower your team. But, how do you go about using your vulnerability as a manager? Let’s look at some vital points:

Being vulnerable as a manager

While every single one of us is vulnerable at the core, opening up about this outwardly in an eloquent way isn’t straightforward – neither is it particularly comfortable.

We’ve compiled several ways to unlock vulnerability and communication in your management practices:

Distinguish your own vulnerability

Challenging your own insecurity is a perfect starting line – doing so means you tap into your own vulnerability. After all, no single human being is always free of shyness or anxiety. By coming head-to-head with your own insecurities, they have less power over you which ultimately means you have improved empowerment over the team you manage.

Understand the value of vulnerability

Showing your vulnerability doesn’t make you weak. Instead, it enables you to demonstrate your real self.

Applying vulnerability as a leader

Even when you understand the importance of vulnerability, it doesn’t necessarily result in conveying vulnerability liberally. Many of us have to begin practicing being vulnerable, as we’re so in the habit of doing the reverse.

Develop your own vulnerable side by becoming a good listener rather than fretting about always saying the right thing. Don’t hesitate to confess you may be wrong or that you don’t have all the answers. Often, the bravest thing a manager can do is lend an ear and truly listen to other individuals’ answers and thoughts. 

Utilising weakness as a superpower

Many psychologically-smart managers identify that showing their vulnerable side is a powerful tool. Emotionally intelligent managers who connect with their vulnerability and articulate it correctly when the time is right, to the right individuals, have more chance of experiencing a better backing from their team as well as inspiring and empowering them. 

The benefits of being a vulnerable leader

Let’s take a look at some of the powerful plusses you’ll experience by showing vulnerability:

Enhanced innovation


While you have a vital part to play in absorbing doubt and anxiety, fearlessly conveying vulnerability enables you to lead with authenticity.

This encourages a growth-mindset culture in a company, as it produces a sense of emotional security, enabling staff to take a gamble and step outside their safe place.

Embracing insecurity with honesty and an enthusiasm to learn means vulnerable managers and their staff can work on better innovation.

Genuine relations 

If you as a manager meet moments of vulnerability with openness, in turn, you create more authentic connections. While this may feel awkward, it shows you’re less of a machine and more of a real person – someone your worker can relate to.

Reduced anxiety

Showing vulnerability can kick the mouse out of the house so that your team approaches you to talk openly about matters they may otherwise have felt awkward talking about. The outcome is more openness and less anxiety in the work setting – and for managers themselves.

More trust in your team

As a leader, it’s often challenging to ask for help and offload some of your work on someone else. This entails confessing that you have too much on your plate or that another individual may be better for the project.

By letting your guard down and enabling another team member to tackle the task at hand, such as paperwork or even little things like writing a job advert you haven’t had a chance to start, you demonstrate that you have faith in your staff and share their vision. This then leaves you to concentrate on your strengths and influence other people’s efforts instead of battling on your own with your weaknesses.

More compassion

When you ascertain your vulnerability and communicate them properly, you’ll become less isolated and more self-aware.

Ability to spot problems more quickly

showing vulnerability

By creating a more communicative, honest working atmosphere through your own vulnerability, you’ll discover issues much faster. Chances are, your workers will come forward with any problems they encounter and admit to any errors they make. In other words, they won’t be as scared of doing so in this more compassionate company culture.

When a manager shows vulnerability, it fosters communication, development, and growth instead of anxiety, cover-up, and blame.

While it may seem ironic, displaying vulnerability displays strength. Showing such authenticity and communicating honestly about vulnerabilities is the bottom line in terms of managing with a growth mindset.

Thus, vulnerability is a superpower, one that managers everywhere should go to the trouble of understanding – and when and how to make use of it – to empower their team.