Leading with, and through, vulnerability and compassion


Leaders are often described as charismatic, smart, effective communicators and visionaries. And, excellent leaders are thought of as all of those things in addition to being both compassionate and vulnerable. 

Sadly, many of us work, yes, work, at not letting anything detract from our impression on others as someone who “has it all together meaning there is nobody, and nothing, that can shake us, and that life is nearly perfect. The reality is nobody is perfect, and nothing goes perfectly all the time. We have fears, disappointments, missed opportunities and more. We are human, and as humans who are learning and growing, we are, like it or not, vulnerable people. Similarly, if we want to connect, and truly get to know people, compassion is a difference-maker.

Vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability and exposure provide opportunities to find strength, to bond with others, and to learn from situations and people. Vulnerability is real, and really important.

Sure, sharing everything is not appropriate. Sharing some things – challenges and past experiences, ways you’ve overcome push-back and set-backs, and choices you’ve made, all allow others to get to know you and get a chance to potentially learn from what you’ve experienced.

When you think you’ll look foolish, “less-than” or weak, remember that sharing in a positive, non-complaining, realistic way, that is vulnerability, and that is leadership. There’s great value in that. 

Compassion and vulnerability go hand-in-glove in that once we allow for appreciated (and even scary) vulnerability, our compassion is heightened. This happens because we appreciate others’ situations, ambitions and failures for what they can do both “to” and “for” them. 

Compassion is the combination of empathy, perspective and consideration. Compassion is sometimes saying or thinking that while you may not understand from where the person is coming, you are open to exploration, and even to supporting a person over an idea or action. It is that compassion that allows you to see and hear each person in your presence, and appreciate his or her value.

Both vulnerability and compassion are considered soft-skills. They are intangibles that, while scarcely measurable, positively impact life, business, and your wealth…in terms of friendships and the bottom line.

Once you ensure you are leading in your vision, purpose and communication, check in on your vulnerability and compassion in order to make a mark as a leader in a way that moves someone beyond your smarts and results to your influence and impact!

Debbie Lundberg is a certified life coach, certified leadership coach, and certified image consultant who speaks, facilitates, trains and coaches throughout the country. She is author of Presenting Powerfully, serves as an honorary commander at MacDill Air Force Base, and is a recent member of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Learn more about her at debbielundberg.com.

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