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Learning to be a Vulnerable Leader

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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 y…
By sethbarnes

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.

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