Vulnerable is Valuable

Lars Dalgaard is a general partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and a founder of SuccessFactors which was acquired by SAP for 3.4 Billion dollars. In an interview for the NY times he was asked what were the important leadership lessons he’s learned -

The biggest thing in my life is really daring to be human, and that’s the approach I take to the working world. We could all be so much more human, but we don’t allow ourselves to do it. I think it’s because we’ve been brought up thinking that when you’re in a business role, if you show any emotion, then that’s the opposite of being tough.
The funny thing is that you’re actually a stronger leader and more trustworthy if you’re able to be vulnerable and you’re able to show your real personality. It’s a trust multiplier, and people really will want to work for you and be on a mission together with you.

My instincts are telling me to be strong and tough, but Lars Dalgaard tells me to be human. Who should I listen to?

Brene Brow, a researcher-storyteller, talks about the same pattern of daring to be human in her amazing Ted talk. She focuses her research on “whole-hearted” people who have a strong sense of love and belonging -

The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. ... They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first … the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees … the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

Mark Manson, an author, blogger and entrepreneur, talks in his brilliant book Models: Attract Women through Honesty about the concept of being vulnerable as a mean to be more attractive -

For instance, making yourself vulnerable doesn’t just mean being willing to share your fears or insecurities. It can mean putting yourself in a position where you can be rejected, saying a joke that may not be funny, asserting an opinion that may offend others, joining a table of people you don’t know, telling a woman that you like her and want to date her. All of these things require you to stick your neck out on the line emotionally in some way. You’re making yourself vulnerable when you do them.

Building a startup requires its founders to be vulnerable. After all, most startups fail, and usually the best ideas are the ones that people don’t understand at first sight. For example, Airbnb being turned down by 7 investors

(How would you feel if you’d turned down 7 times? I would probably feel awful), or launching 3 times before getting noticed -

For conclusion, in this short article I tried to draw a thick line between business, life and the advantages of being vulnerable. I hope it will be helpful in our future endeavours.