Expert Advice of the Month: Vulnerable Leadership: “It relates to being authentic”


This month we talk with Zaida Fazlic, director, people and culture at Taiga Building Products, the national building materials wholesaler. This is the latest instalment in our occasional series with her on the topic of leadership.

As HR lead for Taiga Building Products, Zaida Fazlic is passionate about the role of leadership. And while passion gets used pretty freely these days to describe anyone’s current interest or job function, for Fazlic, HR really is her passion. And she speaks with enthusiasm and clarity about what makes an effective leader.

This month, we talked to Fazlic about an HR term that is gaining currency: Vulnerable Leadership. This means “being open about your own struggles and not hiding the fact that you’re human and that you have issues, too,” Fazlic says.

“Sharing with your team how you’re overcoming [your challenges] just makes you more relatable,” Fazlic adds. This makes it easier for others on your team to share their own struggles.

We all have to put aside our own problems when we come to the workplace. But sometimes those struggles are too close to the surface and need to be managed. “You bring in your anxieties, you bring in your pain,” Fazlic says. “It shows up. That can affect our leadership style in the moment. So when you say vulnerable leadership, that’s what it means to me—acknowledging that you are human and that you share all the emotions that everybody else has.”

Whether positive or negative, you’ll bring those aspects of yourself to work. But as a leader, you should not be afraid to show that, Fazlic says. “It’s okay to be yourself and not give up too much of yourself when you come into work.”

As a leader—or in any role, for that matter—having a clear mind, being able to bring one’s whole self to work, is important for getting through a day successfully. If you’re struggling, it’s difficult to give your best effort to the job.

Fazlic says she’s recently enhanced the mental health benefits available to staff at Taiga. That meant increasing the amount available in their employee packages that can be used for mental health, including an employee assistance plan that allows an employee to call up a counsellor and talk about anything that may be concerning them. And one doesn’t have to have a serious diagnosis of say, bipolar disorder, to use the service, she adds. It is available for any kind of problem that may be dragging a person down.

A leader needs to know how to ask how someone is doing and look beyond polite answers like “I’m fine, thanks,” to understand if there’s anything more troubling at play with a staff member. It’s important, she says, to be empathetic, or at least try and see the situation from the other person’s perspective—all without prying.

Zaida Fazlic will be a keynote speaker at this year’s Hardlines Conference! The conference is being held Oct. 18 and 19 at the fabulous Queen’s Landing Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Click here for more info!