|This master thesis is a qualitative research study which focuses on developing an understanding of the role of vulnerability in contemporary leadership. With constructing grounding theory as research method this study is open, exploratory and interpretative. The key questions explored in this research are, what is vulnerability, how can leaders express their vulnerabilities at work and which experiences do they have with this behavioural practice?
How we work and have come to understand work has changed dramatically the last decades. The complex knowledge economy has changed what we define as effective leadership and suggests that leaders in this working reality needs to demonstrate high levels of transparency, authenticity, and engage themselves more emotionally and in interpersonal relations at work to succeed. The productive knowledge worker needs a set of work resources, like feeling important, competent, appreciated, engaged and creative to maintain good mental health and function optimally. The knowledge organizations overall performance is dependent on optimally functioning knowledge workers to sustain and compete. The leader as the gobetween for the organisation and its workers plays a vital role in how organizational visions and goals are translated into workers productive behaviour to achieve these goals. As these positive psychological states of well-being, work engagement, creativity and loyalty functions as catalysts for organizational performance, we need to gain more applicable knowledge on how practitioners can promote these positive psychological states.
This study’s findings indicate that leaders expressing their vulnerabilities at work is a behavioural practice which demonstrates authentic leadership. Expressing personal vulnerabilities as a leader is understood as a way of acknowledging one’s own strengths, weaknesses, personal characteristics and sharing this true self with their followers. Furthermore, this behavioural practice functions as work resources in several ways and at three different levels; psychological, relational and organizational, for the leader, leaderfollower relationship and organization, respectively. First, this led to an internal process of introspection and learning. And second, by demonstrating greater self-awareness and relational transparency, some external processes of trust, integrity and openness in the workplace occurred. Leaders who engaged themselves in acknowledging – and admitting their own personal vulnerabilities at work, experienced enhanced leader-follower relationships. Those leaders who express their own shortcomings and imperfections to their colleagues is a way of empowering them and their competence, with trust and respect in return. These authentic and transparent relationships are open for sharing and addressing vulnerabilities at work. Consequently, trough more effective management of them with sharing of instrumental and psychological work resources, this is argued to enhance psychological capital, work engagement for both leader and follower, and follower’s loyalty. In addition to the occupational health implications of these processes, it has positive implication for the organization’s long-term economic sustainability and innovative performance.