Book Review – Brené Brown, Dare to Lead

Brené Brown, PHD, LMSW, is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work.  She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of several books.  Her TED talk – “The Power of Vulnerability” – is one of the top five most-viewed TED talks in the world with more than thirty-five million views.

Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability | TED Talk

Brené’s book Dare to Lead was a book I had heard alot about and I have to say, it was worth the reading time.  All of us have been, or are vulnerable.  Not all of us have had the courage to confront out fears.  Brené states that “the courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”

Brené suggests that being a leader is about showing your vulnerability.  She defines a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.  During her research she felt that that “we need braver leaders and more courageous cultures”.  Her research showed behaviours and cultural issues that leaders identified as getting in our way in organisations across the world including:

  • Avoiding tough conversations, including giving honest productive feedback
  • Too much shame and blame, not enough accountability and learning
  • Perfectionism and fear are keeping people from learning and growing

When talking about self-preservation and avoiding vulnerability and fear, if we shield ourselves from feedback, we stop growing.  If we encourage feedback, regardless of the quality and intention, it hurts too much, and we will ultimately armour up by pretending it doesn’t hurt … we disconnect from vulnerability and emotion.  Brené referenced C.S. Lewis to explain the consequences of choosing self-protection over self-love – to love is to be vulnerable:         

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no-one, not even an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with bobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. 

Brené talks about the difference between armoured and daring leadership.  As someone who has suffered from lack of confidence I will take some of her pointers to work through such as:

  • Setting boundaries
  • Modelling clarity, kindness and hope
  • Knowing your value
  • Leading from the heart

Daring leadership is about cultivating a culture of belonging, inclusivity and diverse perspectives.  Having recently written a report on diversity and inclusivity in learning and development this interested me greatly.  Having inclusivity at the forefront of decisions and training can only make the workplace culture and working practices better.  Working in manufacturing it can be difficult to explain the value of diverse cultures, but it’s my job to prove it and dare to lead with it.

I will be taking on the challenge of vulnerability:

  • Seeing the world as others see it
  • Be non-judgemental
  • To understand another’s persons feelings
  • To communicate my understanding of that persons feelings
  • Mindfulness

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.  Leadership is about being self-aware and engaging in tough conversations.

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