Dare to Lead

I’m a recent convert to the work of Brené Brown. After years of focusing on such things as shame and vulnerability, she has flipped the hierarchy and dealt with leadership in her most recent book with its intriguing title, Dare to Lead. What’s unusual about the book is that she does not focus on traditional forms in which I exert leadership over you. Instead, she explores how I lead with you but also how I lead within myself. For all of those reasons, it is a book worth reading.

Although she does not spend as much time in this book as she does in earlier ones, Brown writes on the assumption that traditional ways of doing things are not going to work well at a time when insecurities, fear, shame, vulnerability, and the like keep us from doing our best. In this book, she decided to use the evidence she has gathered as a social work professor in determining what “daring leadership” will be like in the decades to come.

In other words, this is not a typical book about leadership that a political scientist would write. It is, however, a book about the kind of leaders I would like to have. And to the degree that I am one, the kind of leader I would like to be.

She does deal with the shame, vulnerability, and other issues she covered in her earlier books. However, here she talks about how leaders overcome those personal shortcomings and develop positive and cooperative relationships with the people they work with, whether that is at the workplace, at home, or, by implications, in political settings.

She refers to old styled leadership exercised over others as “armored” in that we hide our true selves–and especially our weaknesses–because we think we have to in order to lead others. Instead, she thinks new style leaders have to focus on the following:

  • Defining and sticking to no more than two core values. Mine are curiosity and making a difference by the way.
  • Acknowledging our vulnerabilities and addressing them.
  • Enhancing our sense of empathy and, especially, the emotions that underscore what both sides of a relationship do.
  • Building trust through actions that show you are trustworthy.
  • Trusting yourself as well.
  • Learning from your mistakes.
  • Being as specific as you can be about goals and expectations. What she refers to as painting something as done.

Brown is also a gifted writer and story teller. She claims she wrote this book so that it could be read on a single transcontinental flight. She almost pulls it off. If she falls short, it is because you will take time to think about what you read while you were in the air.