Leading Through a Crisis: The Power of Showing Vulnerability

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection”

Brené Brown

In our recent webinar on Crisis Management, Chris Paton, Managing Director of Quirk Solutions and former Royal Marine, referenced Brown’s TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, where Brown states that in order to make a true connection with somebody you must show vulnerability.

Arguably, this is relevant to leaders and their teams, now more than ever. Paton explains,

“It’s about connection with people and trust. By showing ourselves to be a little vulnerable, by showing that we don’t know everything, and that even as leaders we need support as much as everybody else, we can build that bond, that reciprocal trust.”

A team is more likely to respond to a leader they can relate to. In these quite remarkable times, it is important to acknowledge that no one individual should be expected to have all the answers. Paton gives the following insight:

“There is a misconception about the military – they actually praise a degree of vulnerable leadership because, frankly, it is obvious when people don’t know what they’re doing: not everybody can always know what to do and when.”


Another form of leadership vulnerability is transparency.

“Not talking about a problem only makes things worse”

Chris Paton, MD of Quirk Solutions

There is a need for leaders to be authentic. It is important to be who you are and not necessarily who you feel you should be. It is important to be open and not deny the existence of problems. Problems are an everyday reality – overcoming them is the way in which we learn and develop as individuals and as part of a team.

In the first instance, before we lead others, we need to lead ourselves. Understanding the effects of stress, pressure, and fatigue on oneself is key, especially as we might be in for the long haul when working our way through a crisis.


You have then, also, to trust your teams. Delegate and push tasks out to others. It is not essential for you to be everywhere – no one is essential to everything. As Paton goes on to explain,

“Admitting you don’t know it all can be mistaken as a form of vulnerability for a leader, but the more situations are complex, fast-moving and interdependent, the more you need to draw on the knowledge of the wider organisation which will serve to improve innovation and increase creativity. By approaching the rest of the organisation, you can generate better ideas as you simply have more brains working together.”

Finally, one other significant challenge in a crisis management situation is to try and prevent emotion from overwhelming you, limiting your ability to think clearly and act decisively. Leaders need to be cool, calm and compassionate.

Panic is infectious, but so is calmness…

To watch our PEPTalks webinar with Chris Paton click here.

To read more about Chris and Quirk Solutions click here.

To watch Brene Brown’s TED Talk click here.