The value in vulnerability

Mount students’ talk helps young leaders grow
September 21, 2016

Daria Sullivan of Sparta, N.J., Mount Saint Mary College psychology student, discussed “The Psychology of a Vulnerable Leader” on September 20 at the college. 


According to Mount Saint Mary College psychology majors Elizabeth Lavin of Hicksville, N.Y. and Daria Sullivan of Sparta, N.J., a little vulnerability can be a big help to the evolution of a young leader.

In their talk “The Psychology of a Vulnerable Leader,” presented to a packed audience of Mount students and staff members on September 20, Lavin and Sullivan acknowledged that few people like to be vulnerable and open themselves up to the possibility of failure or rejection. However, much of one’s development as a leader occurs in these moments, they explained.

For example, feeling vulnerable is often a byproduct of taking risks, and sometimes, a good leader must do just that.

However, there is a difference between taking a risk and doing something unwise. Lavin and Sullivan define risk as “taking a chance on the unknown,” and note that risk is based on wisdom: “uncertainty plus wisdom equals risk,” Sullivan said.

Noting a feeling of vulnerability and determining if the situation at hand is a risk or simply an unwise move is one way to become a stronger leader, they explained.

Lavin and Sullivan’s talk had its roots in the college’s Beginnings in Psychological Science (BIPS) program, in which Mount students teach elementary school children the basics of psychological science. The program, spearheaded by Yasmine Kalkstein, assistant psychology professor at the Mount, aims to inspire young students with concrete experiences; educate parents and teachers about psychology; and create a medium for psychology students at the Mount to share their knowledge of the field. Both Lavin and Sullivan have contributed to BIPS since its inception in 2014.

The talk was part of the college’s Leadstrong Event Series, which strengthens the leadership qualities in the Mount’s pre-professionals. It was overseen by Brianne Thompson, leadership development coach.