Dare to Leadby Brené Brown
‘Dare To Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts’ by Brene Brown, is a New York Times Best Seller that emphasizes the qualities that are essential for daring leadership. The book is a step-by-step guide towards identifying oneself in the role of a leader and creating a culture of courage and resilience at the workplace.
Laced with energetic advice and personal stories, it is increasingly relevant in today’s time. It outlines the importance of vulnerability as a primary step of being a leader. This book, with its practical tips, reinforces the belief that leadership is not just about titles and positions, it is about the willingness to put yourself out there and lead others with courage. In a world desperate for brave leaders, ‘Dare to Lead’ is a revolutionary key to success and efficiency at the workplace.
The Moment and the Myths
“Daring is not saying “I’m willing to risk failure.” Daring is saying “I know I will eventually fail, and I’m still all in.”
Vulnerability is not about winning or losing. It’s about having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.
When you get feedback, there is no point in grabbing hurtful comments and pulling them close to you. Let what’s unproductive drop at the feet of your unarmoured self. At the same time, don’t shield yourself from all the feedback you receive. Don’t disconnect yourself from vulnerability, as you will stop growing.
We can neither define ourselves by what everyone thinks, nor can we force ourselves to be too armoured from the opinions of others.
There are a few myths that surround our idea of vulnerability. The most common one is that vulnerability is a weakness. But the actual truth is that courage cannot be experienced without experiencing vulnerability.
Another myth is the idea that we control vulnerability, which individuals often express as “I don’t do vulnerability”. If anything, wisdom and experience validate how important vulnerability is. To grow up is to accept being vulnerable.
The third myth is centered around the idea of ‘I don’t need anyone else’. Pushing ourselves to not need anyone is against our neurobiology. We are a social species, hardwired for connection. John Cacioppo, a neuroscience researcher, makes the argument that we don’t derive strength from our rugged individualism, but rather, from our collective ability to plan, communicate, and work together.
We need to trust to be vulnerable, and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust. There is no daring leadership without vulnerability. Vulnerability not built on trust is fake and is the fastest way to alienate others. Vulnerability is best practiced with boundaries. Without boundaries, it is fear or anxiety.
Actions to take
The Call To Courage
“Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
Most of us avoid clarity because we tell ourselves that we’re kind when what we’re actually doing is being unkind and unfair. Feeding someone half-truths just to make them feel better is actually unkind. For example, you may avoid being clear about your expectations with a co-worker or colleague to avoid the uneasiness that follows.
Talking about people rather than to them is another unkind act. We tend to try to avoid the painful and uncomfortable topics from our conversations or our day-to-day dealings with people. In doing so, we eliminate clarity from the conversation.
We also often hold back the truths about our own fears. For example, if you are bad at management as a leader, you may not want to admit it to your team. However, your business will suffer at the cost of your dishonesty to yourself, your business, and others. You cannot lead with fear. When you face your fears, you find the power and wisdom needed to serve others.
Actions to take
“No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”
Our heart is the symbolic gateway to our emotional lives. Wholeheartedness is a combination of a fully examined emotional life and a liberated heart, one that is free and vulnerable enough to love and be loved. It is about integrating one’s thinking, feeling, and behavior and taking your armor off.
We reach for armor in situations where we think being liked or respected is at risk, as we want to protect our ego and fit in. This is often reinforced at our workplace - in many organizational cultures, leaders still subscribe to the myth that severing your heart from your work is more productive and efficient. They reward armor such as perfectionism and emotional stoicism. However, imprisoning the heart is essentially killing courage.
Cultures built on such thoughts and practices end up dehumanizing their employees instead of leveraging the unique gifts of human behavior.
Actions to take
Shame and Empathy
“What the go doesn’t understand is that stunting our emotional growth and shutting down our vulnerability doesn’t protect us from shame, disconnection, and isolation, it guarantees them.”
Taking off our armor and exposing our hearts can open us up to experiencing shame. Shame often makes us feel like we are not good enough. Its power of making an individual feel unworthy is unmatched. We all derive shame from certain unwanted identities.
For example, taking a day off from work because you have a headache is a matter of shame for a lot of individuals. However, taking time off to feel better is not a sign of weakness. If you can’t handle a day at work for some reason, do not be ashamed about it. Instead, be upfront about your needs. Unlearning shame is essential.
Shame manifests itself at the workplace in the forms of perfectionism, favoritism, gossiping, back-channeling or interrupting others, harassment, discrimination, blaming, teasing, bullying, and so on. All these are a direct result of a lack of vulnerability and courage.
A good leader can demonstrate accountability and a sense of fairness in front of everyone, hence stopping the spread of these vicious practices across work cultures. Leaders also need to be empathetic. They can do so by being non-judgemental, by understanding another person’s feelings, and by communicating what they have understood.
Actions to take
Curiosity and Grounded Confidence
“Grounded confidence is the messy process of learning and unlearning, practicing and failing, and surviving a few misses.”
When parents teach children about confidence, they try to prepare a perfect path for their child by fixing their mistakes, praising only results, and intervening in their lives in a controlling manner. However, grounded confidence encompasses teaching courage, praising effort, and modeling grit. It is essential that grounded confidence is taught and practiced from an early age.
More than just being confident, leaders need to learn how to thrive in the ambiguity of paradoxes and opposites. Grounded confidence plays a key role in this. It is the sum of rumbling skills, being curious, practicing and failing, and being okay with a few misses. It stems from being self-aware, by connecting with the intentions that drive your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Do not limit your perspective and insights to yourself, instead, share them with others.
Actions to take
Living Into Our Values
“Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things.”
As a leader, when we are caught in a moment of difficulty, we can either hustle to show the crowd that we deserve to be there or we can allow them to scare us. When we start putting others' voices before our own, we forget the purpose with which we started. We forget our values.
Daring leaders are always clear about the values they hold. This clarity is an essential support for practicing daring leadership.
It is essential to practice the values that we believe in, instead of just preaching them. Ensure that your words, thoughts, and behaviors align with the values that you believe in. The first step of living into our values is knowing what’s most important to us. We can then align our lives with what we hold most important.
Silence is not a component of brave leadership. Brave leaders show up and stand for their core values and the things they believe in. It is also essential to identify the people around you who support your beliefs.
Actions to take
“Trust is the glue that holds teams and organizations together.”
Conversations about trust are tough as they have the potential to run sideways fast. So, people tend to avoid it altogether. When having these conversations, it is important to talk to people instead of talking about them, no matter how difficult it may be.
The primary defining characteristic of the best workplaces is the high level of trust that inhabits those places. It is a must-have organizational characteristic.
There are seven behaviors that define the anatomy of ‘trust’. They can be abbreviated as BRAVING: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-judgement, and Generosity. The intention behind BRAVING is to facilitate a tool that creates the time, space, and intention to talk about trust in a productive and actionable manner.
Our foundation of trusting others also relies on our ability to trust ourselves. It is essential to be authentic with yourself and trust yourself as this will build the bedrock of your trust towards others.
Actions to take
Learning To Rise
“We have to teach people how to land before they jump.”
Leadership is similar to skydiving. One cannot be expected to jump without knowing the essential skills of executing a safe landing. Similarly, we cannot expect people to be brave and risk failure if they are not prepared for hard landings.
Research shows that leaders who are trained in rising skills such as resilience, courage, and authenticity are more likely to engage in courageous behaviors as they know how to get back up after a setback. If we do not have the skills to get back up, we will not risk falling in the first place. When people are taught resilience, they react courageously and steadily get back up after experiencing disappointment or failure.
An essential tool to face setbacks and not let them negatively affect you is the ‘Learning to Rise process’. It refers to the process of getting up from our falls, overcoming our mistakes, and facing hurt, which brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives. This process is made up of three parts: the reckoning, the rumble, and the revolution.
Reckoning means immediately identifying the emotion you are feeling when you are hit by a setback. You don't have to pinpoint it exactly, just identify that you are feeling something. It is important to be emotionally curious. This will help you avoid ignoring your feelings or passing the blame on to others. Pay attention to yourself.
Then comes revolution, which can be defined by courage and authenticity. Taking off the armor, rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust with open hearts, and learning to rise so we can reclaim authorship of our own stories and lives is an act of revolution. Do not let anyone else define success for you. Draw your own path to success, keeping in mind what acts are joyful and meaningful to you on this path.
Actions to take
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