Vulnerability:  The Gateway to Trust

  • High performance derives from trust
  • Trust can only be developed through Vulnerability
  • Three key attributes of Vulnerability are Regard, Gratefulness and Humility

Trust is vital in high performance teams.  Ask any leader and what they prize as the key intangible and the answer most often will be trust.  Why? Trust promotes “flow,” that quality in which members are freed to perform in a focused, engaged fashion. The prime ingredient in developing the trust that makes things flow is vulnerability.

My good friend Michael O’Brien, founder of the BluePrint Toolset™, writes about three fundamental areas that promote and sustain this vital and oft-overlooked attribute. His comments below have helped shape my thinking on the subject.


Since her 2010 TEDx talk, Brené Brown has delivered vulnerability front and center as a key part of being human, and in leading others.  Like previous disruptions to the conventional view of leadership, many of us have struggled with how to apply her well-researched concepts into our daily leadership practice.  Incorporated directly into The BluePrint Toolset™ model, there are three key styles that leverage vulnerability to build and reinforce quality relationships within teams, organizations and the community as a whole.

Regard:  Having unconditional regard for others is about accepting that everyone is deserving of dignity. Vulnerability is an essential part of having and modeling Regard, based on the premise of accepting that we are no better or worse than anyone else.  We might be more skilled or effective in one area but less so in other areas. That is what makes us unique and human.  As leaders, we recognize and leverage the strengths that each of our team members bring to a situation.  Reminding them of their strengths and roles helps to connect each as a members and reinforces the skills that they need to contribute to their work and co-workers. 

Gratefulness: Recognizing that our success depends on the efforts of so many others affirms people on the team, in other departments and the entire community.  As a leader, when we demonstrate Gratefulness, we display that we are part of an interconnected community, that no one truly does it entirely on their own.  The key is not to just say “thank you,” but to identify what the person has done and how that has positively impacted the desired outcome.  When we recognize others in this way, we reinforce their own efficacy, and help them grow their contribution to the whole.

Humility: Operating with humility creates equilibrium between the belief that we are enough, and the desire to continue to grow and learn. We may not have all the answers, but we have value.  This balance of confidence with humility is key to avoiding arrogance which can often plague leaders.  They demonstrate this quality by being open to the idea that someone else may be right; or in other words, the leader could be wrong.  This is where vulnerability leads to courage, as leaders see the needs of the team and organization as more important than the need to be right.  It is easy to fail on this balance, as leaders become stuck in the notion that being right drives confidence and certainty in the team. The actual unintended consequence of this failure to be vulnerable is that it drives perceived arrogance. And when a leader comes across as arrogant, team members lose confidence. They tend to see that leader as someone who will not look at all available data to make the right decision.


Leaders are valued for their ability to help others achieve their potential.  Role modeling is an essential aspect to Nurture Growth within our teams.  When we demonstrate these three leadership styles, we build strong social connections and healthy interdependence within our organization. We also grow ourselves through the process of shedding the façade of our own perfection. 

It is this willingness to risk being wrong, acknowledge others’ contributions and look for the best ideas in others that lead to enhanced trust, flow and performance.  A worthy pursuit.

Ready, Mindset, Grow!

Ready, Mindset, Grow!: Nuggets Mined from the Leadership Journeys

Business leadership books abound today. What makes this one worth the read? Actionable insights! Ready, Mindset, Grow, delivers to today’s leaders entertaining stories of the transformative power of culture. Backed by solid research, these brief tales, and the lessons they convey, can be put into practice for short-term wins and long-term growth. Entertaining and insightful, the author has filled the pages with cultural nuggets and jewels from his 30+ years of experience in leadership coaching and consulting. Smart leaders will appreciate the candor, catch glimpses into their own circumstances and gain the conviction needed to accomplish positive cultural change.


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