What a stark contrast to the old school “never let ‘em see you sweat” mentality. I agree with you, Seth, that vulnerability is the secret sauce to connecting with others. I’ve seen the results of leaders hiding behind a prideful facade of perfection. I want to lead with humility and vulnerability.
Learning to be a Vulnerable Leader
I’ve spent a lot of my life mentoring young leaders. Gen Z is different. While they desire mentoring, they want their leaders to be vulnerable.
Why? My theory is that they’ve seen so many leaders lie to them that they demand authenticity of leaders. And one of the best ways to establish that you’re not lying is through vulnerability – showing up not with strength, but weakness.
Vulnerability is the secret sauce that unlocks intimacy. It puts us in a posture to receive grace and to connect with others who need grace from us. Vulnerability sets the table for intimacy.
Jesus & vulnerability
To learn vulnerable leadership, look at Jesus.
Consider: Jesus, the son of God, was born in a baby’s body, to parents away from home in a dirty barn in a country under the thumb of a despotic empire. What a picture of vulnerability!
When he hung up his carpenter’s apron for the last time, he didn’t ascend to a throne to rule his kingdom. He got baptized and then went to the desert, away from every comfort, away from food and water. And there, in that vulnerable condition, he did battle with his enemy.
Nor did he hide out and rest up when he returned to civilization. Instead, he went to those in Nazareth who had seen him as a boy and a young man and perhaps still saw him that way. And he confronted their expectations saying, “a prophet has no respect in his hometown.”
This did not go down well. They responded by trying to kill him. He escaped, not by using power, but “walking through their midst.”
Look at Jesus’ whole way of ministry – he travels with nothing. If he’s going to sleep in a bed, it’s going to be as a guest. If he’s going to eat, it will be based on whatever God provides that day. Jesus daily makes himself vulnerable.
From that place of weakness, Jesus begins to set the captives free. He shows us that leaders need to regularly touch the humanity of those who follow them. They need to lead with weakness.
Spiritual growth begins with vulnerability
This is one reason that AA groups are better church than most churches. They recognize that our spiritual growth begins with our vulnerability. In an AA group, you begin by sharing your weaknesses and failings, thus leveling the playing field and showing that it is safe to be weak.
From that low place, freedom and healing are available to everyone. To experience freedom, all we have to do is show up in a vulnerable space – confessing our sins, not just to him, but to one another.
Why is that? For one thing, it breaks the power of pride. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” James says, quoting a pervasive theme in Scripture. Sharing our brokenness removes any strongholds the enemy may have in our lives. Doing so establishes the reality of truth, no matter how ugly, and breaks the power that secrets hold over us.
Do you want to connect with young people? Share your weakness with them. Vulnerability may not easy, but it is necessary if we are to get to shared truth and from there to the trust that leaders need.
And I have seen that you do lead that way, Stacy.
Greetings from Papua New Guinea!
Almost every time of spiritual transformation in my life has resulted from vulnerability and authenticity. I think you are right that this is the “secret sauce of leadership”. The best leaders I have followed and the best friends I have made are those who are willing to step into a place of vulnerability and authenticity.
As our kids have grown, I have seen how vulnerability and authenticity as a parent opens the door to deeply connecting with my kids. When Genae and I are “real” with them and share our struggles around the dinner table, and wrestle out loud with our failures, their eyes grow big and their souls drink in.
Thanks for your excellent reminder on Jesus’ example of authenticity and vulnerability!
Hey Jake – You are good at this kind of leading. I predict great things from you based on the way you live and the focus of your life. I will be tracking your life and checking the fruit until my time is done!
Hey bro. Just read you blog to our group here on Jost Van Dyke for our morning devotional…
I love that island. Tried to write a poem there about pirate living, but didn’t feel like it measured up to the spectacle of the place.