Working in a leadership role can often leave senior employees feeling stressed and over-whelmed as they balance the needs of their employees and the responsibilities of the position.

However, whilst employees are able to come to go those above them, or to their peers, share their workplace issues, those in leadership positions can often feel that they need to stay strong to provide a pillar of support and to lead by example.

CiC Vulnerable Leader In Workplace

The issue of the “Stiff Upper Lip”

British people are famed for their ability to present a “stiff upper lip”, however, this is not a viable option for dealing with stress in the workplace – with Mental Health Foundation reporting that, in the past year, 74% of people surveyed felt so stressed they had become overwhelmed or unable to cope.

Putting on a brave face, can in fact lead to more problems down the line, with employee productivity and mental health suffering as a result. In a worst case scenario, creating an environment within the workplace where senior leadership cannot feel vulnerable, may lead others in your business to feel uncomfortable to open up about their own mental health.

This is an issue that can affect people at all levels of seniority, with both Prince William and Harry admitting that trying to present a “stiff upper lip” in the wake of their mother’s passing took a devastating toll of their mental health.

As discussed in our guide to Addressing Depression in the Workplace, one in five people felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they were overly stressed at work and less than half of people diagnosed with a mental health problem had told their manager.

Courageous vulnerability

In the words of Brené Brown—research professor and bestselling author- in her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, “vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness”.

This could not be a more accurate, and it’s a view supported by life coach Patrick Williams, who evangelises the importance of courageous vulnerability in the workplace. Writing for Forbes, Williams shares the following; “Today’s most successful companies know there must be an outlet for emotional vulnerability in the workplace …They know to provide access to services that will head off the personal issue before it grows into something larger and destructive”.

Whilst it can feel that by exposing one’s own vulnerability is a weaknesses, it is in fact a positive, and something that you, as a leader, should embrace in the workplace. Acknowledging adversity, and displaying the corrective behaviour they’d wish to see in their team members – they’ll find that their employees will follow suit.

How can leaders show their vulnerability in the workplace?

It can often be little actions that go a long way within the workplace. Actions such as leaders letting employees know when they’re feeling overwhelmed by a task, or admitting they don’t have a solution to an important issue.

Whilst these may seem like actions that will damage their leadership credibility, they will in fact create a greater connection with their team, showing that they’re only human. Admitting to not having all the answers, can also lead to the greater empowerment of employees, who will look to take problems on themselves.

To quote Brené Brown once again, “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change”.

Finding the right support mechanism

Whatever the situation, our employee assistance programme (EAP) consultants, are fully qualified counsellors or psychotherapists, who can help clarify the issues that employees are facing and, if appropriate, put them in touch with the expert help they need.


To find out more about our Management Support services and how CiC can assist with leadership coaching, email Harry Key at or get in touch using the form below.