The Vulnerable Leader

"Super Hero". Artist: Jeroen Van Oostrom/ ID: 100125802.
“Super Hero”. Artist: Jeroen Van Oostrom/ ID: 100125802.

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength” (Criss Jami)

Regardless of whether you are a newly selected leader or a senior leader with years of experience, perhaps one of the most crucial elements to your success as a leader will be the capability of being vulnerable, and knowing how to best express and communicate that vulnerability. Being a vulnerable leader is not equal to running around crying or being out of balance in general, although a tear spread every now and then for a reason only does demonstrate that you are humane.

From a scientific perspective, the act of crying is defined as a complex secretomotorphenomenon characterized by the shedding of tears from the lacrimal apparatus. In some cultures, crying is regarded selfish while others tend to show more acceptance towards this, as with expressing emotions in general.

However, vulnerability has not necessarily much to do with how well an individual can express his/her emotions, but rather in what manner the individual does express these, and how he/she deals with the emotions of other individuals/coworkers.

Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous. Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. (Brene Brown)

It takes courage to express vulnerability. To be sensitive, but strong, at the same time.

Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength. (Saint Francis de Sales)

Every leader knows that he/she is a social being, dependent upon other individuals.

No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee…. (John Donne, original from year 1624)

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges for an empathetic leader is to learn how to set boundaries. As a leader you have to realize that you cannot help everyone. And, you have to help yourself first – if you are too vulnerable, you will end up helping others to the point that you feel completely drained of energy. Thus, to develop healthy vulnerability is the ability of setting boundaries, being centered, focused and balanced. Rather than doing everything for others, teach them how to help themselves. Rather than doing everything by yourself, learn how to involve people, and let others help you too.

Always be yourself, keep growing, and surround yourself with people and circumstances that support your growth. Spend time with different people and learn from them, but also remember to take some time out for yourself and engage in activities which allow you to stay connected with your intuition, and your true nature.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The difference between successful and really successful people is this: really successful people say no to almost everything. (Warren Buffet)

Think about individuals from your own circles, or celebrities, who have become truly successful through vulnerability. What can you possibly learn from these people?


Best Advice: Establish Dialogue and Invest in Communication

"Earth thinking or talking".
“Earth thinking or talking”.

This may sound a little bit idealistic, but when I go to my blog, my Facebook page, my Twitter account, I talk to different people from all over the world, and you see how it’s easy to establish a dialogue. (Author Paulo Coelho)

Whether you are an author aspiring to become a living legend such as Paulo Coelho, an entrepreneur looking for new clients, representing a brand or an organization/corporation – establishing dialogue and investing in communication are essential for forming partnerships, creating lasting relationships, and for success.

“The new information technology… Internet and e-mail… have practically eliminated the physical costs of communications”. (Peter Drucker)

How do you establish dialogue and communicate online (and offline)?

Are you aware of the actual potential and value of online media, social networks, and a continuously growing online business platform such as LinkedIn? LinkedIn as an online business communication and networking platform offers more than many people and professionals have realized.

As an example of this, I want to share with you my experience of collaboration with a number of business professionals from around the world – people who I approached on LinkedIn.

What started out as an endeavor to establish dialogue online, resulted in MBA Career Stories, a free online publication which you can access here:

MBA Career Stories was written in collaboration by 33 MBA´s with different career and life paths across the globe. The e-publication serves as a career guide not only for aspiring MBA´s or students in general, but offers career, and life advice for practically anyone who enjoys reading true stories.

Extracts and best advice from MBA Career Stories:

“Always take action. You can take further corrective later if needed. This keeps your business moving forward and it is something that a customer likes to see”.

“Build relationships even with your competitors, as you never know how you can help one another”.

“Always build your network and consciously keep extending your reach”.

“Continuous learning and self-development is vital in today’s work”.

“Remember that you have two ears and one mouth” (Japanese proverb)

“Remember that you have two eyes, too”!

“Don’t ask for permission to be successful! What you choose to do with your life is not based on your parents expectations, what your teachers thought you were capable of, what your husband or partner thinks you should do or even what your friends are doing with their lives. It is all about what moves and inspires you. You should never need anyone else to tell you what that is or should be”.

MBA Career Stories

MBA Career Stories

MBA Career Stories was written in co-operation by 33 MBA´s from around the world as a networking and marketing project, in order to develop intercultural communication. The purpose of the publication is to serve as a guidance to people who consider pursuing an MBA, and as a general career/life guide.

My story:

Anne-Maria Yritys, MBA

Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki, Finland


Twitter: @annemariayritys


LinkedIn group:

I graduated in 2012 from Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki, which is one of Finland´s leading business schools. The reason for selecting this program was because of the great opportunity to choose free elective courses from other universities. Personally, I also took some courses from Aalto University, and participated in overseas courses at San José State University, the capital city of Silicon Valley, California, USA, and the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The program was quite extensive, as I studied more free electives than necessary. Beside my MBA studies, I completed two investment courses/exams at Aalto University. The core program was pretty much standard, including courses in quantitative/qualitative research methods, project management, and talent management.

As free electives I chose to take quite many strategic management courses, a couple of change management courses, including business ethics and CSR. The course in Silicon Valley included international marketing, mass media, PR and communication, and innovation management. Quite a package in two and a half years, and I worked full-time throughout my studies in retail banking – it was an intense period.

Previous to the MBA I had been working in the hotel, restaurant and travel industries for a decade after my Bachelor´s Degree in Hospitality Management in 2001. In 2007, I changed careers into banking, and wanted to expand my knowledge from being an expert within hospitality, into learning more generally about international business management. I am satisfied about this decision, since this has given me more options and possibilities in business life.

I have until this day found the MBA useful in at least the following aspects:

–          Increased confidence and trust in my own capacity/knowledge

–          Improved networking skills

–          Improved presentation and public speaking skills

–          General increase of knowledge and knowledge creation

–          If knowledge is not directly available, I know how and where to find it

–           A strategic and holistic view upon business and life in general

–          A better understanding of the big picture of how society and different industries and businesses function

I was a fairly critical thinker already before the MBA, but today I am even more critical in terms of putting things into a perspective. The MBA also enhanced my analytical skills.

After graduation, I worked as an investment manager in a small, private investment firm for about a year. I noticed it wasn´t what I wanted in a longer-term, so I left the company.

At the moment I am working as a freelance business consultant, and I am available for (a) new assignment(s) and/or a permanent role e.g. within change and strategy consulting.

The MBA definitely opens up many new doors. The degree increased my appetite for continuous learning, development and improvement not only of myself as a person, but in how I see organizations and different business areas.

My advice for other MBA´s:

–          Work hard to reach your goals

–          Never give up

–          Believe in yourself

–          Be open for different options

–          Be innovative

–          If you are not ready to be an entrepreneur, become an intrapreneur

An MBA can pursue many kinds of careers in business life. Everything depends upon yourself, your motivations and areas of interest. You can start your own business, join a startup, advance your career in a medium-sized or large organization – whatever suits you best. The most important, however, is to remember to be a responsible leader/manager.

Take care of yourself mentally and physically, treat other people fairly, listen to people and be open for feedback. Know yourself and your values, and live according to them. Enjoy life – career is important, but it is not everything. Try to lead a stable life. If you notice something doesn´t seem or feel right – you can always change direction.

I also wanted to test the usefulness of LinkedIn as a networking tool, and how it would help me in finding business opportunities. This eBook project is one of the steps I have taken to progress my career.

I think it is beneficial to have a wide experience, but real professional progress requires determination and focus. Since the world changes with such a fast pace today, it is of course good to be open for continuous change. Today, careers are not necessarily linear, so basically it is useful to always have a plan B, perhaps even a plan C, in case the original plan doesn´t work out. With many decades of work life ahead of me, I want to continue making good decisions and keep on learning and developing throughout my life.