The Second Rung: Choosing Vulnerability

Isolation can destroy community. For the leader, isolation can be enticing though. It has an attraction much like a magnet has to metal. The authors relate isolation to being in a blackened forest. The leader can feel disconnected from the world around them simple by being disillusioned. It can entrap them to remain alone. The leader may feel that they are all alone and that their followers cannot relate with them. This destroys their leading commitment.

The second step of this climb teaches the leader to remain connected with others. The leader must be willing to be susceptible to other people. To that he or she must deal with influence. Not only does the leader have influence, but people too have an influence on that individual. When there is a balanced influence, the leader will come out of the isolation.

Coming out of isolation is hard to accomplish because the emotion of fear is present. Fear must have its proper place. It cannot be at the forefront of the battle. The leader must be sure of the ability to lead. It comes with the territory. The leader must be willing to be built up by other’s strengths. Trust is the ability to be vulnerable. The climb is taking one step at a time. The climber must step on the first rung before they step on the second.

This visual image of someone taking his or her first and second step up the ladders is great. I remember many times climbing a ladder. The worst experience was when I had to climb a really old wooden extension ladder to paint the very peak of a two-story farmhouse. It was the only ladder long enough to reach that high. Not only did I have to climb it, but also I had to carry a paint can and brush in my hands. I remember taken one step at a time. It held me and I was able to paint the top part of the house without falling.

I had to trust each step. I also had to be vulnerable to it as well. With each step I had made myself vulnerable to falling. The same applies in leadership. I must trust others and be vulnerable to the input from others in my life. I must also keep fear in its place.

I have learned that I will succeed as a leader when I start to step out on the trust of others and remain vulnerable to them.


Thrall, Bill, McNicol, Bruce and Ken McElrath. The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.


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