If You Want to Be Seen As A Leader, Then It's Time to Be Vulnerable



There I was.

Huge, toothy grin.

A stomach full of butterflies.

Eyes wide (and I’ll admit — slightly teary).

Jittery from the immense excitement and anticipation I felt.


She’s one of my biggest mentors.


Yet we’ve never met.


Officially, Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington - Brené Brown Endowed Chair. She’s known for her research on courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. You know — the good stuff. Oh and she’s written five best-selling books (my favorite of which is Daring Greatly) and most recently released a documentary on Netflix.


Last week, I had both the honor and the privilege to hear her speak.


Now, unofficially, Brené believes “that you have to walk through vulnerability to get to courage, therefore…embrace the suck. [She] tries to be grateful every day and [her] motto right now is “Courage over comfort.”” [1]


Talk about powerful. And real.


Suppressing the screaming teenager at a Beyoncé concert within me, I fan-girled my way through her entire talk. She’s someone I hold in very high regard and with deep reverence.


But let me take a beat before moving forward. If you’re unfamiliar with Brené and her work, go watch her original Ted Talk at TEDxHouston, The Power of Vulnerability. [2] Circle back and finish this article once you’ve watched it.


I guarantee you’ll be in awe of her too.


Now, back to seeing her live.


It’s taken me a few days to let her talk settle. Because she said so many things that struck me to my core. It wasn’t something I could just write down and understand immediately. I needed to process. Absorb.


Then this morning everything clicked. It finally hit me– what impacted me the MOST about her talk actually had nothing to do with the content.


It was how she showed up.


Because I don’t feel like I heard a canned speech or scripted answers during the Q+A. I don’t think I could’ve skipped out and gotten the gist from seeing her at another event. Or listening to a podcast interview. Or reading her books. Or watching her documentary.


This event was completely one of a kind. What she shared was entirely special to that night.


Because she was fully, unequivocally and unabashedly herself.


I saw a woman, just like me, honor her truth. She didn’t show up with a pre-scripted speech. Or the answers and explanations people wanted her to provide. This was my favorite part of the event, and here’s why:


She was honest.

She was unique.

She was vulnerable.

She was courageous.

She was brave.


THAT’S why the entire audience leaned in collectively, soaking up her presence and wisdom. Why I was swooning all over the place, hanging on her every word. I left feeling a strong, deep connection to her as well as my fellow audience members. And from what I overheard walking out, they did too.


Because she was different. And inspiring. She proved to everyone there that being yourself is the most captivating thing you can do.


Scary, yes.

Vulnerable? You bet.

But courageous? And worth it if you want to make an impact? YES.




I’m sharing this with you because when it comes to navigating change, the decision to embrace who you are and and what you want and not take action based on what you “should” do is the #1 biggest fear I hear from my clients.


Can you relate?


They’re scared they won’t be accepted. That they’ll be judged. That they won’t be understood. That the pain of putting themselves out there and being ridiculed for it will tear them apart. They won’t be able to handle it.


This type of paralyzing, nausea-inducing fear prevents them from moving forward. Like a car stuck in the mud, tires spinning out.


Because we’re wired for community and connection. In the caveman era, it was the only way you’d survive. So the desire to be a part of a group is pretty much built into our DNA.


If we don’t fit in? Well, our bodies read and experience that as a pain and fear equivalent to life or death.


Therefore, being yourself and fully embracing what makes you YOU is, I’d argue, perhaps one of the biggest risks you can take in life. But I want to let you in on a little secret…


... it’s also the most rewarding.

Better yet, it’s captivating. Enthralling. Magnetizing.

Brené’s presence last week confirms this firsthand. That even though stepping up and standing out feels like the fast track to isolation, it’s actually the ticket to feeling a part of something.


Which makes vulnerability, as Brené points out, a strength.

Because you’ve showed up even though you feel exposed and at risk. And despite the fact that you’re unsure of the outcome. Of how you’ll be received. Or how things will go.

So next time you find yourself in a season of change (or perhaps you’re smack in the middle of it right now), remember that vulnerability draws people in.


Because you’re living out their deepest desires in real time. You’re showing them that they too can


Be themselves.

Stop putting up a front while their real self lurks in the shadows.

Be seen.

And show up fully.


So keep being vulnerable. Lead the way.


As Brené said last week, “You’ll feel wildly uncomfortable. But you’ll also feel ALIVE.”

Comment below or send me an email at sofia@sofiaadler.com 


[1] https://brenebrown.com/about/

[2] https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability%5D.%20%5B2

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