Buzzword: Vulnerability


Vulnerability is undoubtedly one of the biggest buzzwords of 2019, but as soon as someone brings it up regarding our personal leadership style, we cringe. Somehow, we’ve arrived to a place where we believe strength and transparency cannot coexist. We think to be a great leader, we have to let go of the human parts of ourselves that get overwhelmed, that value care and compassion, and that need time to rest and recharge. This could not be further from the truth. It’s hard to lead with vulnerability. It’s uncomfortable and demands we relinquish control and share our authentic story. Consider the following to become a more vulnerable leader and to put yourself in a better mental state to prepare for a culture of care.

1. Get Comfortable With Who You Are

The hardest person to be vulnerable with is yourself. Think about that for a minute. What does it even mean to be vulnerable with yourself? Here are some real-life examples:

  • Instead of saying “I don’t understand why that brother/sister is always trying to one-up me in front of everyone,” say “I’m feeling insecure in this role, and I am afraid of letting my chapter members down by doing a poor job. I need to work through that.”
  • Are you apt to getting defensive? When a chapter member challenges something you say or do, listen to them. Then, take personal time afterward to reflect on why your instinct was to become defensive.
  • If you get upset when members act apathetic or uninvolved, step back to survey the landscape. Have you made it a personal responsibility to ensure the chapter’s success? This timeout will help you realize the stress you’ve put on yourself or maybe the root of the apathy.

These are all hard realizations. The common theme is that you are reacting to behavior in others because of a personal insecurity, fear, or weakness. Being vulnerable with yourself asks us to sit with those fears and acknowledge them instead of hiding them.

2. Understand Fear & Intimidation Don’t Work

Fear and intimidation are quite literally the opposite of vulnerability. They’re easy to kindle and keep people quiet and in-line. But this is not leadership, and it’s not brotherhood/sisterhood. We are living in a time where it’s easier to hurt others than it is to sit with our own imperfections — and that’s a terrifying reality. It’s even more terrifying to come to terms with the reality we use fear and intimidation with our members because we ourselves are scared and ashamed. Be open and honest with your members about who you are, what you stand for, and what your values are as a chapter. People will listen and follow you much more if you do this, than if you make them feel insignificant.

3. Be Human First & A Leader Second

The life of a college student is exceptionally busy. Add a chapter or council leadership role on top of that, and it can feel like you’re working lots of different full-time jobs. In all of the chaos, we often forget the first and most important job we have is taking care of ourselves. Remember you are human. You have emotions. You have needs that must be met. You need connection and compassion from those around you. You need time to rest, to reflect, and to reenter. At the end of the day, people will remember your character. Don’t be afraid to take the leadership hat off and just be you.


Lauren Hughes is an incoming graduate student at the University of Florida in their Higher Education and Student Affairs master’s program. She is a Chi Omega with a deep passion for enriching the fraternal community, working towards social excellence, and living in to her values. Upon completion of her master’s program, she hopes to work professionally in fraternity/sorority life in a role that will allow her to make a national impact. A recent Virginia Tech graduate, she loves cheering on the Hokies and all things maroon and orange.

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