When Vulnerability Leads to Loyalty and Respect

The story that follows is true.

He couldn’t believe his ears. A senior member of the management team actually said they were drowning. In more than 15 years he’d never heard anything like it. Before this, the company line was, “Do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

He embraced that philosophy and had spent many late nights and Saturdays getting the job done. He’d seen others stressed and frustrated with unrealistic workloads while they “got the job done.”

But now, three years into their new position, this senior manager said they were drowning in the workload and needed help. It was counter cultural. It was unprecedented vulnerability because their boss’s neglect had created the situation.

Others had complained about the workload. But no one had come close to making it human or suggesting things needed to change.

The dynamic of respect.

Respect is earned through competence. We respect an athlete’s skill to score, a speaker’s ability to influence, or a leader’s calm during stress. On the other hand, occasionally sharing limits and frailty also earns respect.

Pity or respect.

You might fear vulnerability leads to pity or disrespect. When vulnerability exposes habitual weakness, you’d be right – competence not weakness earns respect.

Vulnerability calls for respect, on the other hand, in organizations that value results, people, and integrity. This type of respect always begins with leaders.

Followers won’t be vulnerable when leaders aren’t.

Respect and loyalty.

Vulnerability, additionally, invites loyalty. When people are drowning you throw them a rope.  In this case, delivering results rises above production to people. Getting the job done takes on new meaning and satisfies the human need for fulfillment.

When doing too much persistently permeates an organization’s culture, a leader’s courageous vulnerability leads to respect and loyalty.

When does vulnerability go too far?

How do leaders earn your respect?