When most of us think of a leader who is vulnerable at work we assume that either the leader is vulnerable or they aren’t. In other words we tend to think in terms of two binary options. But the reality is there are different types of vulnerable leaders. In my new book, Leading With Vulnerability, I interviewed over 100 CEOs around the world and surveyed nearly 14,000 employees in partnership with DDI.

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

Wonder Woman can fly and has super strength and speed. Spider-man can shoot webs from his hands, climb walls, and has amazing reflexes. Wolverine has claws that grow from his hands, can heal himself, and has enhanced senses.

The 5 superheroes are:

  • Captain Heart
  • Professor Personal
  • Super Situational
  • Wonder Worker
  • Balanced Beast

I consider all 5 of these vulnerable leaders to be superheroes and like any superhero they all have their strengths and weakness. I put together a free PDF which breaks down all 5 of them including their strengths and weakness.

Read through each one of them and let me know which you are most comfortable with being.

Meet Captain Heart!

Captain Heart wears their heart on their sleeve and they are as authentic and transparent as they get.

For them, authenticity isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a way of life. “What you see is what you get,” is their battle cry, a testament to their unwavering commitment to transparency. This is a leader who doesn’t just share the triumphs but also the trials, who sees the power in vulnerability. These types of leaders are comfortable sharing anything and everything with anyone. They can talk about personal challenges and struggles at work, ask for help on a crucial project, admit to a mistake, show positive and negative emotion, and try to be as much of an open book as they can. Captain Heart also doesn’t set specific boundaries and barriers between work and life and they believe in being a single authentic version of themselves at all times.

Captain Heart is able to quickly build relationships and connections with other people as a result of their openness. They are also able to thrive in a variety of complex situations ranging from tough meetings at work to casual get togethers outside of work. Because Captain Heart is so transparent there’s also not a lot of emotional baggage they have to carry around, everything is out there and there is no ambiguity around what they believe in or where they stand on certain issues because they are never afraid to speak up. This type of vulnerable leader is considered by many to be brave and courageous. Because they are comfortable with themselves they are also self-aware.

Captain Heart is not invincible though. Because they are so open they are also more susceptible to attack. It’s very easy to take information they share and use it against them in either a personal or professional setting. When those around you know so much about you it’s not hard to see why this can be the case. This type of vulnerable leader may also make those around them feel uncomfortable because not everyone is ok with being as open and transparent. Captain Heart may also periodically get in trouble for saying the wrong thing.


  • Quickly builds relationships and connections.
  • Thrives in a variety of complex situations.
  • Nimble and agile due to carrying minimal weight on their shoulders.
  • Eliminates ambiguity since their emotions are clear.
  • Not afraid to speak up and is considered courageous and brave.
  • Intuitive and curious.
  • Charismatic
  • Emotionally intelligent.


  • More susceptible to attack.
  • Can feel overbearing or overwhelming to others.
  • May make others feel uncomfortable.
  • May get in trouble for saying the wrong thing.
  • Can be perceived as “too vulnerable” and an “oversharer.”

Sheryl Palmer is the CEO of Taylor Morrison a 3,200-person home building company, which not coincidentally has been ranked as the #1 most trusted home builder in America for the past 7 years! Here’s what she told me.

“I wear my heart on my sleeve but I have thick skin. I’m a sensitive and emotional person and other people can see it. Sometimes if something is really upsetting and impacting me, I have to leave the office. And if my way of dealing with something is crying, then I’d go to my car and do that. Over time I developed more self-confidence and I learned that if I’m going to show up as my authentic self, then sometimes my team is going to see that sensitive side of me, and if I’m feeling really hurt I’m going to be honest with them and not hide it.”

Download the PDF to learn about all of the 5 Vulnerable Leader Superheroes.