“Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust” (Brown, 2012). Without vulnerability we can’t truly experience belonging, courage, compassion, or connection. How could we if we haven’t shared our true selves? All we know is that our “inauthentic self” is okay and “belongs”. But that kind of acceptance isn’t real, so we don’t really believe or feel it. Without the willingness to be our true selves, we can’t be truly known or seen. 

Emotional Expression

Is “openly expressing one’s feelings verbally and non-verbally” (MHS, 2011). The definition of vulnerability is centred on ‘emotional exposure’ and a willingness to share yourself. Emotional expression is what enables this. A team high in emotional expression will be able to articulate their needs and feelings, and will be aware of the way in which they are perceived by others. This, in turn, fosters an environment that is open, authentic and safe, which are important elements in building vulnerability. 


Is “recognising, understanding, and appreciating how other people feel. Empathy involves being able to articulate your understanding of another’s perspective and behaving in a way that respects others’ feelings” (MHS, 2011). A great example of empathy in relation to vulnerability is understanding how difficult it might be for someone to share openly with the team. Leaning into this and trying to gain insight into their perspective will increase the likelihood that they will be willing to authentically open up. The Centre for Creative Leadership conducted a study with 6,731 leaders from 38 countries in which they  asked the question: “Is empathy needed to be successful in a leader’s job?”. Their results revealed that empathy is positively related to job performance. Managers who show more empathy towards those they lead are viewed as better performers in their job by their bosses (Weber et al., 2007). 


Is “respecting oneself while understanding and accepting one’s strengths and weaknesses. Self-Regard is often associated with feelings of inner strength and self-confidence” (MHS, 2011). Vulnerability is inherently risky and exposing. If your self-regard is such that you don’t believe in yourself or your own inherent worth, it is unlikely that you will be vulnerable. A crucial element to fostering healthy self-regard is what Kristin Neff calls ‘Self-compassion’ – which is all about treating yourself as you would a close friend. It is a “healthy way of relating to oneself when faced with difficulties including feelings of inadequacy and general life stressors” (Neff et al., 2020).