Why just being vulnerable won’t cut it

Written by Jacob Morgan Tuesday 03 October 2023
Leaders and managers are told to show their human side. It’s certainly a powerful tool for building trust and credibility – as long as you remember to lead too
A person in the sea wearing a life ring holding an "SOS" sign

On 20 August 1991, Hollis Harris, the then CEO of Continental Airlines, told his 42,000 employees that the company was struggling and he wasn’t sure of the path forward. He ended his memo by telling his employees to pray for the future of the company. 

The next day, Hollis was fired.

If Hollis was a junior employee who worked in accounting, then those statements would have had minimal impact. Some employees may have taken notice – maybe some would have taken him out to lunch to ask him why he’s having a bad day – and he would have received some words of encouragement and support from his leader and life would have moved on. When you’re a leader, the things you say and do carry more weight and have more impact.

Another such leader is Fleetwood Grobler, the president and CEO of Sasol Limited, a South African energy and chemical company with over 30,000 employees. 

Fleetwood did something that Hollis didn’t: he added leadership to the vulnerability

Fleetwood took over when the company was $13bn in debt and about to be repossessed by the banks. This was even prior to the pandemic, which really pushed the company downward. He, too, was asked to address his employees – but his message was different.

Keep reading to learn why simply being vulnerable just won’t cut it


If you are already registered as a CMI Friend, Subscriber or Member, just login to view this article.

Confirm your registration

Login below to confirm your details and access this article.


Please confirm that you want to switch off the "Sign in with email" remember me feature.

Register for Free Access

Not yet a Member, Subscriber or Friend? Register as a CMI Friend for free, and get access to this and many other exclusive resources, as well as weekly updates straight to your inbox.

You have successfully registered

As a CMI Friend, you now have access to whole range of CMI Friendship benefits.

Please login to the left to confirm your registration and access the article.