by Guest Blogger – Alf Foster

A while ago I was challenged by my mentor to demonstrate an understanding of vulnerability before our next catch-up. I wrote about his interesting thoughts and my first discoveries here.

As I further explored the subject of vulnerability in preparation for my next chat with the Wise Old Owl a.k.a. my mentor, I thought about this cool little thing called the Circumplex that Dr Clayton Lafferty put together 40 years ago. He did this by using the insights of 20 other wise old owls including Abraham Maslow, Rensis Likert, David McClelland, Carl Rogers and Harry Stack Sullivan. This is not an exhaustive list but you should be impressed by the amount of wisdom Dr Lafferty managed to cram into 1 circle. See the Circumplex here:


The Circumplex is a tool that displays the 12 possible thinking and attitude styles that govern human behaviour.

Our thinking influences:

  • Our relationships with others
  • Our health
  • Our effectiveness
  • How much cash we make. Yes that’s right folks. Cash!

Dr Lafferty from Human Synergistics describes the 4 thinking styles most associated with effectiveness as:

Self-Actualisation – knowing yourself
Humanistic-Encouraging – valuing people and giving them hope
Affiliative – helping people feel or be connected
Achievement – doing hard things with effort, courage and skill

Here is why I think vulnerable people are effective:

Self-Actualised people know what they value and are motivated by what is important to them. They accept themselves and other people. Therefore they are free from the guilt, worry or even the shame that is associated with the belief that one’s value is related to approval or recognition from others. Try thinking about the feeling you get when you do something aligned with your values. That is how these folk feel most of the time. To be vulnerable you can’t care about what others are thinking, rather you have the courage to live/tell/show the full story of what and who you are.

The Humanistic-Encouraging style was recently described by an expert in this field as having “unconditional positive regard for people”. You can’t have positive regard for others if you don’t have it for yourself. These folk are very supportive of others reaching their potential. They take time with people and approach all of their relationships in a non-judgemental manner. They are the ultimate person to show your vulnerability to or to fail in front of. Imagine if all leaders were like this?

Affiliative people value connection with other people above all else. They look for ways to deepen their relationships with others. How do they establish these strong, trusting emotional connections? By being authentic. By sharing their thoughts and feelings rather than worrying about title, position or control. They are the same person suit on or suit off. Does this sound like somebody who is comfortable with vulnerability?

Achievement focused people are not afraid to fail. Like a child learning to walk; if they fail they dust themselves off and better their last best performance. They are crystal clear as to what the ultimate goal is and how they are tracking towards it. Because they are able to accept their failures and learn from them (often by seeking help), those around them are inspired to do the same. To constantly do hard things and believe their efforts are paying off they must acknowledge their vulnerabilities and leverage the learning’s from those moments when they didn’t hit the mark the first, second or third time.

I have one more blog on the way around this topic where I will explore how effective people view vulnerability. Stay tuned!