Pastor’s sermon in church last week was on vulnerability and how important it is as a Christian to be vulnerable so that we recognize our weaknesses and rely on God for the power we need.  Jesus modeled vulnerability throughout his life and taught us that those who are first will be last, and those that are last will be first.

This really hit home with me because a little over a week ago my back went out with a bulging disk and all of a sudden I was extremely vulnerable. I couldn’t even put on my own shoes. I clearly had to recognize my shortcomings and ask for help to get things done. I noticed that my wife and others actually appreciated the opportunity to step up and help, and low and behold through proper exercise I feel my back is now stronger than ever.

In today’s world many think that vulnerability equates to weakness. I believe that to be just the opposite. I think vulnerability is a very important characteristic of an effective servant leader. I would define a leader that displays vulnerability as one who is courageous, flexible, can learn, wants to constantly get better, and is able to apologize.

Effective servant leaders recognize that their perception of how people feel about their leadership and how they are modeling the company’s values might not be reality. Therefore they consistently put themselves into a vulnerable position and ask their team for feedback (climate survey) on the reality of how the team sees them leading and modeling the values.

Once they get the results, these leaders will publicly thank their team for the feedback, acknowledge where they are falling short, and then put together an improvement plan based on the feedback they received. This process of climate surveys is a powerful model for the rest of the leaders in the organization as well, and will drive constant improvement of the culture.

Ultimately, I believe this human element inspires and creates connection.  When leaders are willing to show up authentically, to let those they lead see all their strengths AND weaknesses, their team sees them as more human, and someone they can more readily identify with. They also see someone they more likely can trust to care about them and help fulfill their needs, just as they are conversely asked to commit to helping the leader fulfill the organization’s needs.

The strategy of vulnerability is not easily employed.  I believe fear of vulnerability is the single reason more people are not effective servant leaders. But invariably, a leader’s willingness to show themselves as human, to show themselves authentically and transparently, will pay dividends in the form of increased followership for years to come.  Do YOU have the courage to be vulnerable?

Mark Deterding