Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Courageous Leadership

Written by: on April 15, 2024

Six years ago, the staff at the school where I taught music was asked to read Brene Brown’s book, “Dare to Lead.” As a staff, we went through each chapter and shared all that we gleaned from the book. It was a rich time of discussion and insight. Our principal was so enamored by the content that she eventually became a “Dare to Lead” facilitator and, after 20 years of being a principal, transitioned to become a full-time educational coach and is making such a difference in the field of education. This book helps educators greatly, but it is also a helpful resource for any leader to show courageous leadership in any field.

As I skimmed parts of the book again, I was reminded of some of my original takeaways regarding the “brave leadership” Brown describes:

  1. “Trust is in fact earned in the smallest of moments. It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection.”[1] I find this true in every productive coaching session. When the coach’s presence is fully engaged and curious, and shows that they are invested in seeing the client succeed, trust is gained quickly. One cannot often know exactly when it occurs, but the feeling is unmistakable when it shifts to trust. Leaders on all levels need to understand how important the trust factor is in followership. Brene hit a goldmine of wisdom here.
  2. ‘Armored Leadership’ drives perfectionism, fear of failure, cynicism, and criticism, weaponizes fear, rewards exhaustion, and discriminates easily if someone doesn’t fit in. ‘Daring Leadership’ models and encourages empathy, and self-compassion sets boundaries, praises learning, models clarity, kindness, and hope, and leads from the heart.[2] Brown’s distinctions are clear and on point in my opinion.
  3. Brown’s research on “shame” as a ‘never good enough’ emotion not only gives understanding to the construct but also offers what is needed to overcome it. She mentions “shame resilience” which helps move a person from shame to empathy.[3]
  4. Another takeaway was Brown’s acknowledgment of the helicopter parent syndrome where parents swaddle their children “in armor out of their own lack of confidence as parents and people.”[4] By coddling children by “fixing, praising only results, and intervening” they neglect to prepare them for a pathway forward “by teaching courage, praising effort, and modeling grit.”[5] This is seen over and over again in today’s society. Children, teens, and now those that are young adults, fear risk and anything negative. Yet, the hard times are what shape and form us more than any other times. My own example came when my daughter faced a severe health crisis in her 20’s. The pain would be excruciating at times. I wondered how and why this could happen when she had so much of life ahead of her. I wanted to shield her and yet I couldn’t. She was wrestling with her faith in the God she thought she served. Someone who would rescue her at a moment’s notice. Yet, He didn’t. In my own wrestling, I remembered our principal adopting the phrase “You can do hard things!” from Brene Brown as she would talk to students and staff so I began saying that to my daughter. It began to plant resilient hope  into the situation. I can truly say these last 6 years with my daughter has made me realize that God DOES use suffering as well as blessing to form and shape us.
  5. Lastly, and probably my greatest takeaway from the book was Brown’s explanation of how we are all “conspiracy theorists with our own stories” where we fill in whatever gaps of an incomplete narrative with our fears and worst-case scenario thoughts.[6] She reminds the reader that a culture of courage looks for the correct information and gives as much clear information as possible.[7]

We have read many leadership books throughout the last two years, and each gives a different slant to leadership theories and principles. However, what I am grateful for, is that leadership theories are becoming much more engaged with the “human” dynamics of leading. Bereel in “Rethinking Leadership” mentions that leaders “move people to new places – physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually…” (providing) “inspiration, courage, conviction, hope, and comfort.”[8] It is no longer just about getting people to get a job done, or to fulfill a role. It is about valuing people and bringing them to a higher level. It is the courageous leadership that Brene Brown highlights. This is not a lone ranger calling. As Jules Lanzer writes God “calls, inspires and equips” and engages us in a “holy partnership”.[9] He guides and directs us to lead with greater courage and clarity.


[1] Brene Brown, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. (New York: Random House, 2018). 32.

[2] Brene Brown. 76-77.

[3] Brene Brown. 136.

[4] Brene Brown. 166.

[5] Brene Brown. 166.

[6] Brene Brown. 260.

[7] Brene Brown. 260.

[8] Annabel Beerel, Rethinking Leadership: A Critique of Contemporary Theories, 1st ed. (Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2021), https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003044444. p. 5.

[9] Jules Glanzer, The Sound of Leadership: Kingdom Notes to Fine Tune Your Life and Influence (Jules Glanzer, 2023). 82.

About the Author

Esther Edwards

Esther has served in ministry leadership for over 35 years. She is an ordained minister, an ICF and CCLC certified coach, and licensed coach trainer. Her and her husband have launched their own coaching practice, Enjoy the Journey Leadership Coaching and seek to train ministry leaders in the powerful skill of coaching. Esther loves hiking, reading, and experiencing new coffee shops with friends and family. She enjoys the journey with her husband, Keith, their four daughters, sons-in-law, and their four, soon to be five, beautiful grandchildren.

12 responses to “Courageous Leadership”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Esther, you wrote, “Esther Edwards writes, “Another takeaway was Brown’s acknowledgment of the helicopter parent syndrome where parents swaddle their children “in armor out of their own lack of confidence as parents and people.”[4] By coddling children by “fixing, praising only results, and intervening” they neglect to prepare them for a pathway forward “by teaching courage, praising effort, and modeling grit.

    I am living through this right now with my 23 year old daughter who moved out of the house last week. She was tired of being monitored. We do so perhaps because has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (her Hungarian mother died from cancer and many people self medicated with alcohol). While highly functioning, my daughter is a 15 year old trapped in a 23 year old body. She wants adulthood, but lacks the understanding that car insurance, phone usage and education have to be paid for. All the budgeting classes etc…bounce off of her “I will do it my self armor.” Sigh. I remember that the prodigal son had to eat with the pigs before he came back home. Weeks, months, years? I pray that it is sooner than later.


    • Esther Edwards says:

      I feel your pain. Parenting doesn’t get easier once our kids become adults, It requires much wisdom to know when to step in and when to let the chips fall. I can hear the heaviness in your post and will pray with you that she does come home sooner than later.

  2. Travis Vaughn says:

    Esther, this was such a great example of reflecting and writing syntopically, with Glanzer, Beerel, and your personal story and example woven together.

    A couple of things stood out from your takeaways. First, you referenced “Armored Leadership” which “drives perfectionism, fear of failure, cynicism, and criticism,” etc. This is something I wrestle with in my wiring as an Enneagram 5 (not sure what you think or know about the Enneagram). One of the 5’s biggest fears is appearing incompetent to others. This drives perfectionism and a tendency to operate with urgency, often for fear of failure. That is definitely something the Lord continues to work on in my life and ministry.

    Second, your reference of the helicopter parent syndrome made me think about a new book written by Jonathan Haidt (Haidt wrote the Forward to The Canceling of the American Mind) called “The Anxious Generation.” I have not yet read the book, but I’ve listened to a couple of interviews with Haidt about the book’s subject matter. He seems to address this issue of how parents neglect preparing their children to deal with difficulty and conflict (in addition to problems associated with smart phone usage). This is a book I’d like to read over the summer time. Maybe! Ha!

    • Esther Edwards says:

      I do enjoy unpacking the enneagram. My daughter is a 5 – so creative and knowledgeable so I do appreciate what you bring to the table. My enneagram is a 3 so I have to always have success and be perceived like I have it together. On the other hand I make sure things get done. I guess all of us have a life time of having the Lord work on us in the areas that are more of the shadow side.
      Enjoy your summer, Travis. So glad you are in our cohort.

  3. mm Kim Sanford says:

    In your post you make a great connection between Brené Brown’s work and parenting. Thank you for sharing the story of your struggle watching your daughter suffer. How difficult that must have been.

    I also see an important connection to parenting in the first quote you highlight: “Trust is in fact earned in the smallest of moments. It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection.” Isn’t that so true in parenting, and in all relationships really. Start by showing up and paying attention.

    • Esther Edwards says:

      Hi, Kim,
      So true. The small moments of being present and aware are huge in parenting. They can form such a sense of safety and trust. You know, every time I receive your newsletter, I see your handsome boys and are so glad you are raising them with such a love for the Lord. They are so blessed to have you as a parent.

  4. mm Tim Clark says:

    Esther, I love this: “you can do hard things”. Thanks for being vulnerable to share your story about your daughter. That had/has to be really difficult.

    But as I read it it inspires and encourages (puts courage into me) that “I can do hard things”. I know this in ministry, and personally, but I’m facing some hard things with my family now that at times I’ve honestly wondered how I can get through.

    But God is using it all, and I can and will get through it. Thanks for the reminder. I’m so constantly encouraged by your heart and words.

    See you in DC.

    • Esther Edwards says:

      Thanks for the response. God does use it all even though it’s hard to see it in the moment. I will pray for you and your family as you weather this tough season.

  5. Jennifer Vernam says:

    Esther- You have highlighted many good points in this post. I especially appreciated your call out to be engaged and curious- it makes me think of a term my friend uses about being a steward of relationships. This is a theme we have heard from many authors, as you have so nicely referenced, here. Thank you for gathering all of these themes into cohesive thought!

    • Esther Edwards says:

      Hi, Jen,
      Again, it was great spending time with you today! Love the thought of being a “steward of relationships.” I do wish I would have nurtured some relationships with greater intentionality through the years. Those that I did cultivate proved to be such gifts to me.
      Thanks for responding!

  6. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


    Thank you for sharing your takeaways from the book. I enjoyed your post. I am looking forward to seeing you in DC.

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