Home Concepts Interpersonal Relationships Piercing the Armor: Professional Coaching and Vulnerability

Piercing the Armor: Professional Coaching and Vulnerability

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My colleague, Kevin Weitz, has written about the personality disorders that pervade our contemporary workplaces. His essay in this Library of Professional Coaching is one of the most frequently accessed—suggesting that the coaching of impostors (often embedded in a narcissistic or border-line personality disorder) and the coaching of those who work with these impostors is needed—and quite challenging. Coaching in this realm moves us beyond armor, persona and public man. Yet, in each instance, we are addressing the issue of vulnerability and must provide coaching in a caring and thoughtful manner. As one of my artful coaching colleagues has noted: these are delicate matters.

Vulnerability and the Art of Coaching

In conclusion I return to the work of Manfred Kets de Vries. This remarkable analyst of leadership proposes that leaders are often addressing the vulnerability of those working with them, as well as their own vulnerability. The more vulnerable we are in any specific situation, the more challenged is our own psychological equilibrium (Kets de Vries, 2003, p. 113). In seeking to re-establish equilibrium, we are likely to engage in splitting (separating the world into clear cut “goods” and “bads”), projection (ascribing to other people what we reject in ourselves), or denial (refusing to acknowledge what is going on inside ourselves or in our environment). These are all primitive defensive routines that we witness going on all around us today (and not just in our clients). Facing this vulnerability, we must gain a steady sense of self, gain the capacity to test reality, and tolerate anxiety and uncertainty in our life. Kets de Vries suggests the following goal: “the ease with which the individual can articulate his thoughts and emotions, his ability to perceive the relationship between his thoughts, feelings, and actions, and his desire to learn . . . “ I would suggest that these goals are worthy of our coaching enterprise – especially when we are coaching the women and men who face the challenge of leadership and must, at times, clad themselves with armor, cloak themselves with a persona, or confront their own sense of being an impostor who might soon be exposed. And perhaps we should check out own armor, persona and impostor-fears as professional coaches. Are we vulnerable? Are we immune?




Manfred Kets de Vries (2003) Leaders, Fools and Impostors (rev. ed.). New York: iUniverse.

Richard Sennett (2017) The Fall of Public Man (40th Anniversary Ed.), New York: Norton.

Carl Jung (1955) Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Boston, MA: Harcourt.

Wilhelm Reich (1960) Character Analysis (3rd Ed.) New York: Farrar, Straus and Girioux.

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