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Vulnerable Leadership: The Key to Business Success

Published 19th August 2019
In a room full of high performing managers and consultants, the key message of the day for effective leadership was not about being a loud, dominant, ‘strong’ leader – it was about being vulnerable.

Earlier this year, Oncore had the pleasure of sponsoring an event for the New Zealand recruitment industry called LEADR. Hosted by the RCSA the event was held on May 15th and boasted an impressive line-up of speakers, including L&D Manager Phil Crothers, owner of GirlBoss NZ Alexia sHilbertidou and Suzanne Pratley from NZ Police.

The theme of the presentations and panel discussion was around open and vulnerable leadership. We believe it’s so important, especially when a team is moving through different stages of growth, to have leaders who possess the courage to be vulnerable.

What does vulnerable leadership mean?

Over the years, we’ve been taught that to be a leader is to be strong. Regardless of whether you’re in management or simply in a position of leadership in your team, you’re meant to roll with the punches and display a never-ending air of bravado.

But what we’ve started to see – and what was a key talking point for the LEADR – is that this mentality isn’t 100% correct. Yes, being a leader requires strength, but the real strength your team wants to see is your vulnerability, not your bravado. In fact, being vulnerable is arguably the most courageous thing you can be as a leader.

Vulnerable leadership can be displayed in a number of ways:


Owning mistakes: This is a tough one for most. Leaders need to take responsibility for everything, including those things that can sometimes go wrong. Accepting that you’re not perfect may leave you feeling exposed. But sharing your first-hand experiences and the lessons you’ve learnt can help to set a tone amongst your team that mistakes are not the end of the world. You encourage a culture of learning and growth, where you’re invested in the development of your people and in turn, they’re invested in the success of the company.


Asking for help: Another doozy. This is different from simply delegating tasks and responsibilities. It’s saying, “OK, I am skilled in ABC, but I am not skilled in XYZ and I need some help and input from those who know more.” Asking for assistance or knowledge from those in your own team actually helps them feel that you value and appreciate their feedback. It also shows that you aren’t pretending to have all the answers and that you aren’t afraid to be real with your team. Being genuine with your employees fosters more loyalty and trust.


Open communication: Firstly, leaders need to be clear about the goals and direction of the business, as well as being more transparent about what is happening in the business on a daily basis. It also means creating a 2-way conversation within the organisation rather than only top-down communication. Allowing others to openly share their thoughts and ideas in a safe and constructive environment is key to building a strong team who feel connected.

Vulnerable leadership results in better engagement from team members overall. It can take your teams to new levels of performance because they better understand your position and realise you’re all on the same side. Vulnerable leaders inspire, are more authentic, and build bonds that lead to increased performance.

So what does this look like? Ultimately, it’s a management team that’s more open and transparent with their staff at all levels. It is more important now than ever to adopt this approach to instil a strong team culture, especially with the changing workforce, the growth of remote work and gig workers and the entrance of a new generation who expect open communication, connection and meaning from their workplaces.


Leading from the back: lessons from the panellists

Xero’s Phil Crothers’ speech on people management was insightful. He talked about the difference it makes to an organisation when management is structured less like a pyramid.

Working in new, agile work environments where organisations are deeply complex and departments crossover daily, the trend is towards open communication and collaboration. The key to achieving this is by giving more power and responsibility to your employees across the board.

This could mean team members are given the opportunity to be involved in decision-making processes, or given the chance to champion an idea into implementation. When you cultivate a culture of collaboration and trust, your people feel empowered. And this is what can make your business truly succeed.


“When you cultivate a culture of collaboration and trust, your people feel empowered. And this is what can make your business truly succeed.”


Another favourite was Alexia Hilbertidou, found of GirlBoss NZ, an organisation advocating for equality and inspiring school-aged kids to break free from their social and cultural restraints. She encourages young girls to seize the opportunities around them and be their own ‘girl boss’.
Alexia was truly inspiring in her talk at LEADR. Her story of courage and resilience resonated with many in the room who had decided to go out on their own.

She also highlighted the need to work with the next generation, which was a consistent talking point in our break-out sessions during the afternoon. The world of work is changing, and with it comes exciting opportunities both here in New Zealand and globally. But it also means we need to lead the change and help prepare the next generation to succeed. Working with the government and with schools and educational institutions will be an important step for the recruitment industry to ensure our kids are ready for future ways of working.

An exciting partnership

It was great to be a part of the first-ever LEADR event by the RCSA, alongside some other great solution providers like Yudu, Xero, and Agoge.

Recently, Oncore partnered again with the RSCA for a high-level discussion at the NZ Town Hall in July. It was an exciting event that brought leaders of the recruitment industry together to discuss the growing and changing workforce in New Zealand.

Watch this space for future partnerships between the RCSA and Oncore.