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. The goal of the book was to explore the difference between being vulnerable in your personal life versus being vulnerable at work and how current or aspiring leaders specifically should approach vulnerability in the RIGHT WAY. But what does that mean and how do you do that?

When most of us think of leading with vulnerability we think in terms of binary options, either you are, or you aren’t. But, after doing the research for this book I discovered that’s not correct. There are actually different types of vulnerable leaders…5 of them to be exact.

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 want you to get to know them…and decide which superhero you resonate with most. Below you will find a brief description of each but in the PDF you will get a full breakdown along with abilities, weaknesses, and an example of each. Grab that PDF here.

#1: 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 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.

#2: Wonder Worker

Wonder Worker is more comfortable being vulnerable around all things work related.

This means they are comfortable saying “I don’t know,” asking for help, talking about work-related mistakes or failures, and giving and receiving candid feedback. They are not as comfortable sharing personal information or anything that falls outside of the context of work, it doesn’t mean they never will, but it requires them really getting outside of their comfort zone to do so. Wonder Worker prefers to have more established boundaries between work and life and tends to be more private with their personal life.

However, if you are a Wonder Worker, your team members may feel like they don’t know the “real you” since most of what you share tends to be focused on work. You may also struggle with creating very high levels of trust and belonging. Lastly, you may find maintaining boundaries to be a challenge over time as you constantly work to balance your personal and professional self.

#3: Balanced Beast

Balanced Beast has a balanced level of personal and professional vulnerability with everyone.

They tend to not be as vulnerable as Captain Heart but instead are somewhere in between Work Warrior and Professor Personal. Unlike Super Situational who adjusts depending on the circumstance or the person, Balanced Beast is consistent across the board. I’m definitely more comfortable being a Balanced Beast in a work environment. My vulnerability is consistent in terms of things I share and am comfortable talking about and it’s the same with everyone I work with.

The challenges with Balanced Beast vary depending on what the balance looks like. If this type of leader is comfortable with a balance that is more open and transparent about personal and professional vulnerability then they will face the same headwinds as Captain Heart, however, if Balanced Beast is more comfortable with a conservative balance where they don’t share as much personally or professionally, then they will struggle with the same things as Wonder Worker.

#4: Professor Personal

Professor Personal is more comfortable being vulnerable around things outside of work.

They are liked by many since they are more comfortable talking about things like personal challenges and struggles, life outside of work, and giving insight into who they are as a person. As with Wonder Worker, it doesn’t mean Professor Personal won’t ever share things around work, but it’s not what they are most comfortable with. Professor Personal is great at developing strong personal connections and relationships and oftentimes has quite a few friends at work. They give insight into who they are as a person and what they care about and value. This type of vulnerable leader also creates a positive work environment where people feel more comfortable being themselves. As a result the culture has high levels of engagement.

#5: Super Situational

Super Situational adapts and blends with their environment and surroundings.

They may meet with a member of their team and share that they are going through a tough time at work but then they may meet with a peer shortly after and talk about a big mistake they made on a client project. Super Situational has very high levels of self-awareness and are good at knowing how they impact a person or a situation depending on what they are sharing. They are also capable of adapting to any situation and have a unique ability of being able to read any room they are a part of.

Super Situational can struggle with energy levels due to constant shifting and changing from situation to situation.

While this can be an effective leadership style it’s also draining. Team members may also be a bit confused as they all get glimpses of different sides of the same vulnerable leader.

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