Leadership

Young Global Leaders: how vulnerability can build trust in your teams

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We asked seven Young Global Leaders how vulnerability enables them to build trust within their teams.

We asked seven Young Global Leaders how vulnerability enables them to build trust within their teams. Image: Freepik.

Kulé Galma
Community Engagement Specialist, Young Global Leaders, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • In a world of artificial intelligence and fake news, the currency of trust has never been more important.
  • Research shows that in order to effectively build trust, leaders must acknowledge their own vulnerability.
  • We asked seven Young Global Leaders how vulnerability enables them to build trust within their teams.

Trust is perhaps the most valuable leadership currency. It is both a driver and determinant of any organization’s success, yet many leaders are increasingly being confronted with trust deficits. Furthermore, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced technologies are making it harder for people to decipher what is real and what is not. A prime example was the AI-generated image of former US President Donald Trump being arrested that went viral last year.

With the tough economic, political, and social challenges facing the world today, it seems technologies like social media and AI are exacerbating issues around misinformation and fake news, contributing to declining trust in leaders. The pandemic in particular highlighted this, as conflicting information from various sources left many uncertain. The rapid spread of unverified claims online has raised serious questions about people's ability to distinguish facts from fiction.

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Building trust in a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to establish facts from fiction is as gradual as it is challenging. According to research from leading experts on trust like Dr. Brené Brown, trustworthiness is built through vulnerability. Leaders must therefore thoughtfully consider how to effectively engage and reassure people in this new landscape if they hope to maintain or regain public trust.

We asked seven Young Global Leaders (YGLs) to offer their top tips on how to build back trust with vulnerability and more:

'Create an authentic connection'

Arvind Satyam, Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer, Pano AI

Arvind Satyam, Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer, Pano AI

As a leader in an early-stage startup, I embrace vulnerability to create an authentic connection with my team, our customers, and partners. Our space is new; we have more questions than answers, so it’s critical that we embrace a learning mindset. Taking risks inevitably will lead to some mistakes and failure. I create a safe space where we discuss mistakes and failures and opportunities to learn from them. This approach creates a sense of trust to tackle the day-to-day challenges of a high growth start up environment.

'Foundations of trust and respect'

Mia Perdomo, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Aequales

Mia Perdomo, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Aequales

There is no better way to describe what leadership entails in a post-pandemic polarized world than with the words vulnerability and empathy. As leaders in 2023 we are forced to admit that sometimes we have no idea what is happening, that we don’t have the answers and that we rely heavily on each other to figure it out. At Aequales, the female-led organization that I co-founded, we decided vulnerability and empathy would guide us from the beginning. We have frequent conversations with our team regarding their needs and our honest possibilities. We didn’t lose our authority because our authority is founded upon trust and respect. We gain power through seeing our commitments through, through the transparency of our objectives and our humanity, and not through control, coercion, fear or threat. All expectations are clear, all difficulties are too.

'Humility and determination'

Yousef Yousef, Chief Executive Officer, LG Sonic

Yousef Yousef, Chief Executive Officer, LG Sonic

Starting as an entrepreneur from scratch and expanding to 59 countries, vulnerability played a pivotal role. It meant acknowledging the unknowns, learning from each new market, and adapting strategies accordingly. This openness doesn't compromise authority but enhances it, showing resilience and a growth mindset. It's about leading with humility and determination, demonstrating that from zero to global, each step involves learning, adapting, and evolving. Such a journey builds a foundation of trust, crucial for sustainable growth in diverse international landscapes.

'Impactful leadership'

Irina Lachowski, Member of the Board, RenovaBR

Irina Lachowski, Member of the Board, RenovaBR

In our polarized world, where AI dominates and global connections dwindle, vulnerability becomes the cornerstone of impactful leadership. Through authenticity and a willingness to connect with others, we build bridges across diversity, amplify our capacity for dialogue, and turn the impossible into reality. Vulnerability is the mighty weapon of true leadership, engagement and trust. Contrary to belief, it doesn't compromise authority; rather, it defines the profound difference between a leader and a mere authority figure. Remember, it's not positions that engage, but people.

'Create a safe space'

Florian Hoffman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The DO

Florian Hoffman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The DO

Trust is hard to come by in a time of multiple crises. And yet, it’s crucial for successful leadership. Our research shows that when leaders acknowledge their own ambiguity and vulnerability, it doesn’t diminish their authority. Rather, it fosters trust. The crises we face now mean we are all vulnerable. And giving that reality space is important, because how we act in times of uncertainty is crucial. I’ve always believed that great leaders create a safe space for their people to act with purpose. Showing up as your true self, while also being clear about the direction your organization needs to take for its future, people and planet, is how you show strength as a leader in today’s complex environment.

'Authentic leadership'

Aissata Lam, Director-General, Investment Promotion Agency of Mauritania

Aissata Lam, Director-General, Investment Promotion Agency of Mauritania

I never try to dissimulate my vulnerability, as it is part of who I am. In fact, I strongly believe it helps me on my leadership journey. The kind of relationship I am building with my team is based on everyone’s ability to “come as they are” as long as it doesn’t impact our organizational culture, values and efficiency. Vulnerability equates to authenticity; authenticity implies realness, which is the foundation for trust. Authentic leadership is the way to go for me.

'Show confidence in the team'

Ali Akhai, Chairman, Martin Dow

Ali Akhai, Chairman, Martin Dow

Trust is inherently vulnerable, to separate the two is complex but vulnerability can be tailored to suit the team, vulnerability can be redefined as trust and confidence in the team only then will it energise the team and motivate them to think creatively and that for me is the turning point in my space as a leader. Be open by stating confidence in the team, so it doesn’t compromise your authority rather shows faith in the team and striking a balance enables a leader to not compromise on authority and is what makes an individual a leader.

Related topics:
LeadershipDavos Agenda
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Contents
'Create an authentic connection''Foundations of trust and respect''Humility and determination''Impactful leadership''Create a safe space''Authentic leadership''Show confidence in the team'

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