Leading with a Limp: 5 Advantages of Vulnerable Leadership


Discover why embracing your vulnerabilities as a leader isn't a weakness, but a pathway to genuine strength and effective team management. Learn how "limping" leaders often outperform their "strutting" counterparts.

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Thursday, June 20, 2024, at 2:00 PM EST

When I was a kid, my parents liked to tell me that I walked with a bit of a strut.

Not like a Connor McGregor strut, but a little swagger. 

I didn’t mean to. It was just the way I walked. My gait had a little rhythm to it, I guess. 

Strutting Seems Better Than Limping, Though

Given the option to strut or limp, I’d likely choose to strut.

I’ve had a few knee surgeries and too many sprained ankles to count. Walking with a limp is a permanent reminder of pain and inabilities. Limping is frustrating as it’s so limiting.

Yet when we limp, we are reminded of our limitations, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The Walk of a Great Leader

Leaders tend to strut. They’re tempted to walk in front in such a way to be noticed and hopefully followed. But the strutting is mostly off-putting to the best leaders around and behind you.

Strutting leaders appear confident but are typically woefully insecure or unaware of their limitations. A strutting leader is an immature leader. The kind of leader who has not yet realized their deficiencies. They may appear to strut, but it’s a counterfeit gait.

That’s why I love following leaders with a limp. A limping leader has been through the leadership gauntlet of sorts, and they arrived on the other side with some bumps and bruises. A leader with a limp realizes their limitations. This realization makes room for:

Other Leaders to Grow

Leaders who strut tend to hog all the leadership opportunities. After all, they are the best leader in the organization and, therefore, should make all the leadership calls.

Limping leaders understand that they don’t possess every skill and ability required for organizational success. These leaders are great delegators. They offer others opportunities to lead, try new things, and take some chances.

Great Leaders to Follow

Leaders who strut struggle to recruit and retain other leaders. At best, they’ll keep insecure followers who are too scared to step away from following.

On the other hand, limping leaders attract great leaders by consistently supporting them in their unique skills and abilities.

Passing Along Credit While Accepting the Blame

The limping leader doesn’t mind taking the blame if things go poorly. They’re already limping.

But watch a leader sho struts. When things go well, they want the credit, as it adds to their counterfeit confidence. And when there’s a mistake or failure, the strutting leader can’t take the blame as it may create a limp they can’t tolerate.

You to Grow

If you strut, you can’t see yourself accurately. You don’t see the gaps in your leadership or what you’re uniquely gifted to do. Strutters believe they’re best positioned to do it all, so they do, and in the process, rob their remaining followers of opportunities.

A leader who limps is fully aware of their gaps. As mentioned, this creates space for the leader to delegate and offer opportunities to others. It also opens opportunities for personal growth and ongoing development.

You to Do What You’re Uniquely Designed to Do

Finally, the limping leader focuses on where they bring the most value to the organization. They don’t try to do everything because they know they’re not that talented. They have a realistic view of themselves and their contributions.

This is not the case for the strutting leader. These leaders act like God’s gift to leadership. They see themselves through their own rose-colored lenses. But as they cannot be trusted with honest feedback or evaluation, they rarely find out. Speaking truth to power is most challenging when the power likes to strut.

What To Do About The Strutting Leader

If you’re following a leader…

Be wary if you’re following a leader who mostly struts out in front of everyone. It may be challenging to leave, but it may be the best decision you can make for your own good.

If you are a leader…

Take an honest assessment of your gait. The best way to do this is by asking for honest feedback. A self-assessment can offer insight, as well.

Are you losing leaders? Are you consistently offering opportunities for others to grow? Are you stingy with compliments and passing along credit?

Limping Along

Limping should be our goal. If you tend to strut, you are partially unaware. Be open to asking for honest feedback and listen to what you hear. Refuse to defend your gait. This is the first injury you need to sustain to begin limping a bit.

I get it. We want to look like a leader. The problem is we’ve elevated the insecure leader’s strut above the servant leader’s limp. Rather than mimic what our culture celebrates, instead, be the leader you want to follow. My guess is that leader would have a limp.

I walked with a strut right into my marketplace career and ministry time. Strutting got me promoted and created value for a season, but eventually, the strut was too much to fake. I dealt with my insecurity and allowed myself to become the best version of myself rather than who others wanted me to be. The process removed my strut, but gave me a limp.

I’m proud of my new gait, though. It’s more honest, vulnerable, and accessible. It helps me lead with relational influence over positional authority.

If you tend to strut, take some time to consider how your gait may be harming you and your followers.