Subscribe to RSS feed Get updates via e-mail

Allowing Vulnerability

June 30, 2017

The contents of this article will certainly fly in the face of the world’s version of leadership. The stereotypical leaders of today are depicted as men and women who never flinch or show any kind of emotion, have a stiff upper lip, and are hard charging right to the very end. One may even refer to them as the “Teflon Dons” of leadership, where nothing seems to stick or impact them on any emotional level. This stereotype depicts them as tough, demanding, unwavering, and sometimes mean to the core. Anything less and they are considered weak and not fit to lead. Does that sound like the type of Christian leader that you want to be in the workplace? Let’s now compare the world’s version of leadership with what I call the “gold standard” of leading others. There are two verses that I believe speak directly to the central point of this chapter of allowing vulnerability.

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

How beautiful and appropriate are those two words found in the shortest verse of the Bible?……….Jesus wept. Here we have the Creator of the universe showing His extreme vulnerability to His inner core of trusted advisors and confidents. Christ, who showed us through His righteous words and actions that He is the true and consummate embodiment of Christian leadership, thought it important enough to communicate to the world that it is okay to show vulnerability. This is the same Christ who spoke with righteous authority, performed miracles, was willing to die on the cross for the sins of mankind, and spoke the universe into existence. Yet, He wanted to tell us something about allowing oneself to be vulnerable. Jesus wanted to let us know that human beings have emotions and it is okay to show those emotions in certain situations. In John 11 above, Jesus was told that Lazarus was dead and was moved to tears when He saw Mary, Martha, and many other Jews weeping for the loss of their beloved friend. The entire mood was one of mourning and loss, which impacted our Savior’s emotions. In the same chapter, we are told that Christ groaned in the spirit and was troubled.

“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,” (John 11:33)

There are many other examples in the New Testament of Christ allowing himself to be vulnerable, especially in the context of prayer. We see in Luke 22, that during His greatest time of anxiety, pressure, and oppression, He was willing to kneel down and pray within a stone’s cast of His followers.

“And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:41-42)

Christ was a strong, decisive, loving, and righteous leader who knew the importance of modeling the appropriate behaviors for other Christian leaders.

The world would argue that showing any sign of vulnerability (in any form) would put the leader at risk for losing control of those that are following. They see vulnerability as weakness, a chink in the armor, and a human leadership flaw that would let others run rough shot over them. Now, granted, I am not condoning an overly emotional leadership style in the workplace. However, there is nothing wrong with allowing our fellow employees hear us talk about a need for prayer that will help give guidance and direction on a matter of critical importance. Neither is there anything wrong with leaders expressing certain emotions with tonality of speech, facial expressions, and a countenance that cries out (pun intended) for the seriousness of a pending decision. I believe that such a demeanor has just the opposite effect of what the world fears might take place. Occasionally seeing a leader in a genuine state of concern or need, will have the effect of rallying the team around that leader. It will motivate followers to take an active part in navigating and solving the challenges at hand. If not, they may not be a good fit for your team or the organizational culture that you are trying to create. Here are some other ways that leaders can allow glimpses of their vulnerabilities that can be used for modeling Christian leadership behavior:

  • Leaders should allow their reliance on God to be evident.
  • Leaders should admit their mistakes; “I was wrong, will you forgive me for………………..?”
  • Leaders should allow their weaknesses to be evident.
  • Leaders should allow for constructive criticism.
  • Leaders should be upfront with followers when certain conditions are present where “all hands on deck” are needed.
  • Leaders should admit when they are having a bad day at work. 

While followers want leaders who are unwavering with a steady hand at the helm, they also want leaders who will show their vulnerabilities while at work. Because they desire relationships with those who lead them, they want to see evidences of a leader’s true inner core to be able to understand them better and get to know them on a more personal level. Followers don’t want perfect leaders, they want leaders who are honest, humble, genuine, and forthright. 


David Bennett June 30, 2017 @ 6:31PM
Thank you so much for this article. It is much needed. I do a lot of discipleship, and will definitely be adding this to my subject of TRANSPARENCY. Thanks again.

Leave a Comment