Being a Vulnerable Visionary


“I think the best entrepreneurs are Vulnerable Visionaries. Its a combination of being vulnerable and having confidence.” ~ Chip Conley

I have referenced Chip Conley in my daily posts multiple times, with his concept of “Vulnerable Visionary” one learning I repeatedly share.

Today’s post dives into Chip’s thoughts on what it means to be a Vulnerable Visionary and why it is so important.

I then go on to coin my own Emotional Equation (Chip’s idea too!) on being a Vulnerable Visionary.

Finally, I’ll link this all into how my belief in this concept informed the development and articulation of the types of leaders I wish to attract to work with me and who I love to work with to make a difference!

I hope all of this has value to you in considering your own leadership as well as those who have taught and inspired you.

Chip Conley on being a Vulnerable Visionary

First, I highly recommend this short video of an interview Chip gave back in 2012 on the topic. It is concise and captures the essence of Chip (himself absolutely a Vulnerable Visionary). I saw it back then and it made a huge impression on me, changing and shaping my views on leadership from that point forward.

As I noted, I first saw this video years ago. In more recent times we have spent time together and I have the privilege of calling Chip a friend.

As a leader, last year in Baja at my first visit to the Modern Elder Academy I found myself telling Chip I would drop everything I’m doing to follow and support him if he asked me and the project was right for that. To me that illustrates the power of being a Vulnerable Visionary.

For more of Chip’s thoughts, then, and in addition to the video, an excerpt from an interview he gave to Forbes (I’ve added bold highlights):

“Well it’s counterintuitive but it’s also proven to be accurate: vulnerability is power and I believe in this power. I believe being vulnerable gives a welcome mat to work with people, but I also think just being vulnerable alone and not having anything to mix with it, speaking of equations, is not necessarily the prescription for success because if you’re just vulnerable all the time you’ll be in a constant state of turmoil.

People want their leaders to be on a pedestal sometimes and so my thing is: ‘Okay – I’m not on a pedestal. I am sometimes vulnerable. However, I also have confidence that we will find a solution.’ I have an intentionality that says ‘We’re going to go for it and here’s what we’re trying to do.’ The combination of that sort of confidence and intentionality with the vulnerability is certainly a powerful combination because most leaders aren’t trusted by the people in an organization all that well.

So if you could just start by being trustedI think being vulnerable and authentic is the first step to creating trust. But then you could also be someone who’s got the vision to know where you’re going and what we going to do. Being vulnerable and being visionary at the same time — that’s not an easy combination. But that’s probably what would describe my leadership style. That’s when I’m at my best, and able to be a transformational and transactional leader in the sense that I’m more focused on what’s the big picture of where we’re going, and how do we get a sense of meaning from that.

Being a Vulnerable Visionary – and an Emotional Equation

The first article I wrote about Chip and his concept of Vulnerable Visionary was one of the first articles I wrote on this site back in Autumn 2017. In that article I wrote:

“The leaders we need now need HUMILITY and VULNERABILITY and at the same time absolute CONFIDENCE that the business or organisation will find the answers.

Together this means that the leader must have TRUST in their vision and TRUST in their people.

The role of Leaders now is to be “Keeper of the Vision” (my post on this here), and to be supportive and confident in the team to pose the right puzzles and ask the right questions needed to move towards and achieve that vision, then to solve the puzzles and answer the questions.

Satya Nadella of Microsoft has transformed that organisation, and perhaps the simplest example of what he has brought is shown in this article on “the best leadership advice in seven words”  and the seven words he used were :

“Make it happen. You have full authority.”

I often say the six most dangerous words in business, that keep us stuck in our paradigms and so at risk of not seeing change and opportunity are :

“We’ve always done it this way”

I also am heard to say that seven powerful words for a leader are, similar to Satya Nadella’s phrase :

“I don’t know, what do you think ?”

Again, the themes around these are humility, vulnerability and confidence, and, over all of this, trust.”

So, from those thoughts from October 2017 and the Vulnerable Visionary interviews, my own Emotional Equation:


Oh, and back in late December 2017 I was reminded of that earlier book (from 2012) by Chip and wrote about Emotional Equations. That post led to Chip and I talking for the first time the next week, then flowed into me flying to Baja and so it flows!

So, finally.


My greatest mentor in life was Ed Percival (see post here). In that post from September 2018 (once again inspired by Chip, this time by a question he asked) I wrote about Ed:

“Everything he learned and practice in over fifty years as a coach and mentor was distilled into what he wanted and what he supported in everybody he touched in his life.


Ed passed away on June 25, 2015 and his presence is with me every day. One way I honour him is in the page on this site that talks about what my clients are looking for and how I support them, and it is called #BeMoreYou.”

In summer 2018, shortly before writing that post, I had invested time and resources to consider closely the difference I wanted to make through my work and worked with some brilliant people to develop that into the core pages of this site so that people could see if they felt they could see themselves as that type of leader.

This was then captured into that #BeMoreYou page, which, if you go to it, you can see incorporates learnings from Ed, from Chip.

After all, “we are the sum total of our experiences”, so with expert guidance, coaching, mentoring, I distilled a lot of that into that page. , distilling down to four core attributes to be found in the types of leaders I find I work best with, who see themselves being and wanting to be more :

  • Hungry
  • Humble
  • Brave
  • Open

It is so clear to me now how strongly informed that distillation on the #BeMoreYou page is from such sources as Chip’s thoughts on Vulnerable Visionary.

I’m humbled and honoured, as I finish writing this post, to reflect on the abundant generosity and wisdom of all those who have taught me so much to bring me to this point, including Chip and Ed.

Also published on Medium.