Showing weakness can help you to be a better leader and build a stronger team

Being a leader may sound cool but is rather a hard task to do . It often requires a lot patience and time . Most workers want someone to show them the right path rather than boss them around. Many people fail in this jobs as their best interest lies in their company or organization rather than their team.

“Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust—it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.” 
Daniel Coyle

At some point, we know that showing vulnerability results in the increase in cooperation and trust among our teammates . But don’t realize how well the importance of this process, particularly when it comes to group interactions.

Jeff Polzer, a professor of organizational behavior at Harvard, has spent much of his career examining these seemingly insignificant social exchanges. “People tend to think of vulnerability in a touchy-feely way, but that’s not what’s happening,” Polzer says. “It’s about sending a really clear signal that you have weaknesses, that you could use help. And if that behavior becomes a model for others, then you can set the insecurities aside and get to work, start to trust each other and help each other. If you never have that vulnerable moment, on the other hand, then people will try to cover up their weaknesses, and every little microtask becomes a place where insecurities manifest themselves.”

Vulnerability is less about the sender than the receiver. “The second person is the key,” Polzer says. “Do they pick it up and reveal their own weaknesses, or do they cover up and pretend they don’t have any? It makes a huge difference in the outcome.”

Polzer has become skilled at spotting the moment when the signal travels through the group. “You can actually see the people relax and connect and start to trust. The group picks up the idea and says, ‘Okay, this is the mode we’re going to be in,’ and it starts behaving along those lines, according to the norm that it’s okay to admit weakness and help each other.”

This interaction can be called a vulnerability loop. A shared exchange of openness, it’s the most basic building block of cooperation and trust. Vulnerability loops seem swift and spontaneous, but they all follow the same steps:

1. Person A sends a signal of vulnerability.

2. Person B detects this signal.

3. Person B responds by signaling their own vulnerability.

4. Person A detects this signal.

5. A norm is established; closeness and trust increase.

In one experiment, subjects were asked to deliver a short presentation to a roomful of people who were instructed by experimenters to remain silent. They played the Give-Some Game afterward. You might imagine that the subjects who endured this experience would respond by becoming less cooperative, but the opposite turned out to be true: the speakers’ cooperation levels increased by 50 percent.

That moment of vulnerability did not reduce their willingness to cooperate but boosted it. The inverse was also true: Increasing people’s sense of power — tweaking a situation to make them feel more invulnerable — dramatically diminished their willingness to cooperate.

We think about trust and vulnerability the way we think about standing on solid ground and leaping into the unknown. First we build trust, then we leap. But science is showing we’ve got it backward. Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust — it precedes it. 

Most of us see vulnerability as a condition to be hidden. But when it comes to creating cooperation, vulnerability is not a risk but a psychological requirement. 


Leave a Reply