Not everyone expresses vulnerability in the same way nor does everyone find the same things to be vulnerable. We can be vulnerable during scary or big moments like receiving candid feedback from a trusted peer or when we need to let someone go because of performance issues. We can also be vulnerable every day with small moments such as praising someone on a team, asking for help, or even listening to someone.

Being able to spot a sign of vulnerability in a co-worker will help you respond appropriately and knowing the signs will help you determine how to act when you feel vulnerable at work.

After interviewing more than 100 CEOs around the world from companies like American Airlines, DOW Chemical, Hyatt Hotels, Edward Jones, KFC, Northrop Grumman, SAP and many others, and surveying 14,000 employees around the world with DDI, I identified 10 common signs of vulnerability at work which I go through detail in my latest book, Leading With Vulnerability.

“A thoughtful, resourceful read on how leaders can be more candid about their foibles and fears without sacrificing their effectiveness. If you’ve recognized the importance of vulnerability but aren’t sure how to bring it into your workplace, this book is for you.”~Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of THINK AGAIN and HIDDEN POTENTIAL, and host of the TED podcast Work:Life”

As you go through these, keep in mind The Vulnerable Leader Equation, which is:

(V) Vulnerable + (L) Leader = (VL) Vulnerable Leader


Connection + Competence = Vulnerable Leadership.

You can learn more about that here.

Recall as well the definition of a vulnerable leader:

A leader who intentionally opens themselves up to the potential of emotional harm while taking action (when possible) to create a positive outcome.

You can see image of the 10 signs below and premium subscribers will get access to the full description and explanation of each one. If you want more content like this that will transform your approach to leadership, you can subscribe here.

Let’s go through each one so you can understand what they are and why they are important.

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