This undervalued and surprising virtue makes for the most effective leaders

According to Grannis, an effective leader is one that is aware of their weakness as much as their strengths. This requires reflections on past mistakes.

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Dr. Carol Grannis is the Chief Self-Esteem Officer for Self Esteem Brands, a company renowned for its mission to enhance qualities of self-assurance on a global scale.

Recently Grannis conducted a research study in order to illuminate the powerful impression vulnerability makes when it is exhibited by individuals in leadership roles.


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The power of self-disclosure

According to Grannis, an effective leader is one that is aware of their weakness as much as their strengths. This requires reflections on past mistakes and mediations on areas they feel to be less than adequate in.

The paper states, “Successful leadership includes sharing your whole self, not just your strengths but your weaknesses too. Sharing your own perceived weakness may mean that you share an emotion, a mistake or risk being vulnerable.”   This is the act of self-disclosure.

When we think of an effective leader admission of flaws rarely comes to mind even though previous literature on the topic has proven vulnerability to be a consistent method of gaining moral and trust in an office setting.

Grannis framed her study by way of four different self-disclosure criteria: Self-awareness, storytelling, trust relationships between boss and employee, and positive reinforcement of self-disclosure by the participants.

She posits that emotional intelligence and self-awareness share a positive link. Grannis found that the executives within her study that were self-aware of their whole selves better communicated what they actually thought and believed, even if it made them uncomfortable. This is a mark of an authentic leader.

Additionally, participants that utilized storytelling to make their mistakes both tangible and relatable to their employees inspired trust and solidarity.  Grannis cited previous research on the topic of trust, revealing that qualities like honesty, generosity, forgiveness, and compassion to be particularly conducive to procuring it. More specifically, leaders that forgive and are tolerant of “themselves  and others,” present a welcomed sense of authority and wisdom.

Lastly it’s important to establish and reinforce the fruits of habitually engaging in discussions of vulnerability with your team. “Leaders self disclose, they observe the results of the employees and how they respond and they take in the feedback and then they will continue this self-disclosure behavior.”

Enacting a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor withal also doesn’t hurt. Leaders that the utilize self-deprecating humor, allow themselves to deemphasize “status distinctions” which in turn puts them on the same level as their followers.


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CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.