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“Vulnerability is allowing someone in so far that they could hurt you, but they also give you everything.”  – Freehan, Water Bound [Tweet this.]

The inaugural LAUNCH alumni class at the end of their conference last week.

Speaking at a leadership conference for business owners I asked the attendees to go around and introduce themselves to me. The first gentleman stood and shared his name, employee headcount and gross revenue. The next shared her name, industry and how long she’d been in business.

After the last person spoke I said, “Okay. Now that I know even less about you after you shared than before, let’s try this again. If we were actually friends, if we were doing life together, what would I really know about you? So finish this sentence: ‘John, if you really knew me, you’d know that ________ .’ ”

I told them they may answer by sharing “my favorite color is purple” or “I believe in unicorns” or “I am terrified of clowns”… But that I expected th

at they go deeper than just sharing the stats of their business as a foundational component of leadership is vulnerability.

The first gentleman hesitated and then stood to speak. (The others thanked him because they were thrilled they didn’t have to go first!) He shared, “Most people who know me consider me somewhat invincible and very buttoned up. But if you really knew me you’d know that I am

actually fragile and have no clue what to do next in my business.”

He sat down.  Then, the others stood and shared:

  • I am hyper sensitive to the way my kids, friends and employees treat one another because of the way I was treated as a child.
  • I have a void in my life because of my inability to have children.
  • I have the ability to give and receive love freely.
  • I am a mother today of a five year old because four years ago my brother and his wife died in a car accident.
  • I am very honest and dependable, maybe even to a fault!
  • My Dad is my hero.
  • My Grandma raised me, was my best friend and I miss her terribly.
  • My dad’s suicide when I was 10 crushed me as a little girl, but has shaped me as a loving woman today.
  • I am funny, but no one knows it because I am shy.
  • When I was 7, my father was murdered and my mother and I were both grateful.

My friend, here is why I share this story with you: this sharing took place not around a candle at a group therapy session. This took place around a boardroom with some of the most successful business owners in the world.

Great leadership, in all facets of life, is the byproduct of a bold, selfless, vulnerable heart. The type of heart that knows the pain of enduring adversity, rising above it, and sharing unique talents, stories and encouragement with others. The world craves authentic individuals who know themselves, care for others and strive to make a lasting contribution. [Tweet this.]

Last week over 100 leaders from around North America gathered in St. Louis at my inaugural LAUNCH leadership conference. It was massively successful uniting personal passion with professional mission.  I’ll be sharing next week the 7 lessons learned from LAUNCH, but one of the common traits of  the remarkable attendees was their authenticity.

When you are willing to let others in so close that they have the ability to hurt you, you’ve also chosen to let them in so close that they may provide everything you need. By living courageous vulnerability you step forward toward living up to the fullness of your promise.

The really cool part:  Those fortunate enough to know you will be ignited by your leadership and begin living up to the fullness of their promise, too!

0 replies on “Leadership and Vulnerability”


If I would have been at your conference, I would have said:

1st Response – I’m Chris, President of a $150+ million religious Foundation.

2nd Response – My dad committed suicide when I was 16, and I still think about it nearly every day.

Thank you for helping us stay real, and for giving us ways to share and encourage others. You are a blessing!

Chris: Thank you and your comment is a gift to the rest of us….thanks for being real…and for sharing a bit of your story. Blessings and continue boldly – – John

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