On the other hand, vulnerability seems to have a dark side. We are remarkably quick to negatively judge leaders who show their human frailties; strength and invulnerability are still held up as core qualities of heroic leaders, who must be fit to unwaveringly bear the load of awesome responsibilities and gruelling duties.

The drawback of vulnerability is demonstrated by the entire rhetoric surrounding Clinton’s health: Assorted conspiracy theories have long circulated, some propagated by Trump himself. The continuous scrutiny of her age as a sign of frailty, and therefore by implication unfitness, have also been a feature of the campaign coverage.

Reactions like these to leaders’ vulnerabilities tell us less about the leaders themselves and more about our own biases.

Our ideas about leadership are still very much connected to images of strong, young male heroes. As soon as we are confronted with older leaders, our bias kicks in and the negative judgement starts. More disconcertingly, our image of leaders is still defined by masculine traits—and of course, vulnerability is still associated with femininity.

The reaction to Clinton’s stumble is a reminder that she’s up against two insidious biases, both of which are immediately inflamed by any indication that a less-than-youthful female leader is in the slightest bit vulnerable.

So if we really want our leaders to be more authentic and show us their true selves, we have to confront and change our stereotypical idea of what leadership means. We must become more inclusive in our attitudes about who can really be fit to lead us. We must accept that leaders are not just strong young men, but that they come in every shape and form.

As a woman in late middle age, competing in a once entirely male field, Clinton knows all too well the price of showing vulnerability. In her two-and-a-half decades in international public life, Clinton has always been under great pressure to show a strong image. At more than one make-or-break moment in her dogged 2008 campaign against Barack Obama, she appeared to “let her guard down“; more often than not, those moments were interpreted as “valedictory, almost elegiac” rather than credited as demonstrations of real leadership qualities.

No surprise then that when she emerged from her daughter’s front door a few hours after her stumble on Sept. 11, Clinton remained stoic. All she had to say to the assembled press was: “I’m feeling great. It’s a beautiful day in New York!”

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