The definition of being vulnerable is to be open to criticism or moral attack; to be susceptible to being wounded or hurt.

I think it goes without saying that most people do not choose to be in a position where they could be easily hurt or criticized. Most of us, in fact, avoid any situation where we could potentially be exposed to this type of scrutiny or risk. Our innate sense of self protection triggers our alert system to avoid vulnerable situations. It’s just too scary.

In my discussion this week with author, Birute Regine, I learned that being vulnerable does not necessarily have to be a negative experience.  Birute says that embracing your vulnerability can lead you to profound openness and a more evolved way of thinking. When you accept your vulnerabilities, you also accept your shortcomings and see the importance of collaboration. You acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers; that working with others will offer more opportunities and solutions.

In fact, how you deal with your own vulnerabilities defines your leadership style. In the traditional domination culture, men needed to be invincible and heroic. They had to overcome nature and each other to succeed. Early leadership models were created from this hierarchical philosophy.

Once you accept your vulnerabilities as a leader, however, your mindset changes drastically. Your style is more collaborative. You do not exert power over others in order to succeed. One of the benefits of being more inclusive is having loyal and committed employees who do their work with genuine interest and engagement, not out of fear.

Birute calls this a more feminine style of leadership.

The traditional masculine style of leadership deals with vulnerability and the challenges it poses in a singular way, emphasizing autonomy, control, and glorifying the leader himself….In contract, a feminine style of leadership adopts a holistic approach that see both the one and the many. It nurtures the whole person within a larger context, engages collective power to overcome obstacles, and adopts a more organic, open-ended, learn-as-you-go, nonlinear approach for achieving objectives.

How do you address your own vulnerabilities?

  • Recognize and admit your mistakes
  • Acknowledge your shortcomings; that you don’t have all the answers
  • Let go of trying to control everything. Recognize that when you feel stressed and challenged, it’s an opportunity for growth rather than another problem to tackle.
  • Be open to accepting help and advice from others.

Embracing our vulnerabilities creates better working and living relationships for us all.

Ask yourself this: are you strong enough to be vulnerable?

To listen to my interview with Birute Regine, click here.

Birute’s book is Iron Butterflies: Women Transforming Themselves and the World.

Birute’s website: