How to Bare Your Neck Like a Leader

People build walls of self-protection because they are afraid.

“… if you are humble, if you make people realize that you are no threat to them, then they will  embrace you.” Nelson Mandela

Low vulnerability:

Vulnerability takes courage.

Insecurity motivates wall-building. People watch for indications that it’s safe to lower their guard.

Self-protective walls keep leaders at arm’s length because leaders have authority and power. You impact the future of the people around you.

7 ways to bare your neck:

Others won’t bare their necks until leaders expose theirs.

Bare your neck first. 

Pat Lencioni said, “I don’t believe a leader can be too vulnerable.”

  1. Tell stories of how you learned from mistakes.
  2. Laugh at yourself. Chest thumping lets others know you’re not safe.
  3. Ask for what you really want.  Any leader who can’t say what they really want won’t get what they really need.
    • I want our team to trust each other.
    • I want you to enjoy work.
    • I want you to love coming to work.
    • I want to lead well.
  4. Give second and third chances.
  5. Share what you’re learning. Don’t pretend you know more than you know.
  6. Stand with team members when they screw up.
  7. Shine the spotlight on others – ALL THE TIME.

People won’t go out on a limb that you haven’t already been on. For example, if you want others to expose their weaknesses and grow, go first.


Empathy enables vulnerability.

Work to understand and respect team members.

  1. Show interest in others. Know the stories of your team members.
  2. Get excited when others are excited.
  3. Honor simple accomplishments. People aren’t looking for you to out-do them when they tell you what they’ve accomplished.
  4. Make “You must feel” statements.
    • This must be frustrating…
    • You must feel concerned…
    • You seem excited…

“What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.” Brene’ Brown

How might leaders develop their ability to be vulnerable?

How might leaders create environments and relationships that make it safe to be vulnerable?