A Work in Progress
Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead is a practical guide-book that shows ordinary people what it looks like to be brave and lead other people. Brown’s idea of a leader is someone who reads people, sees their potential, and helps develop them. I knew I would like this book because Brown uses the “armor” metaphor in her description of what not to wear as a leader. Her armor metaphor is made up of a humanistic self-defense mechanism of “thoughts, emotions, and behaviors” used to protect the person.
To be vulnerable, in this context, is to remove the armor and intentionally expose your heart towards people and advance their potential as an act of courage. While this might be a good strategy in developing brave leadership in the human context, I think exposing our heart and emotions in the principalities and powers context could be quite hazardous to our physical, mental, and spiritual health. I look forward to this unique opportunity to study this author while comparing her metaphorical images associated with armor, leadership, and spiritual warfare.
First, I like the chart depicting Armored Leadership versus Daring Leadership. It provides 16 examples of negative versus positive attributes of leadership. I connected with Brown’s viewpoint on “naming and normalizing fear and uncertainty.” I really like the “naming” part of her concept. Most people are afraid to “name” the source of their problem. I also agree there are times we must find our “new normal.” Personally, for this naming and normalizing process to really work for me, I need the Holy Spirit to help me with wisdom and discernment. Otherwise, I will be fighting in the flesh, or from my human nature, and it will become a losing battle where fear and uncertainty will rule the day. For me, naming powers and principalities of evil as a possible and probable source of many conflicts is a key step in claiming the authority of Christ.
Regarding Brown’s reference to armor. She only mentions it as armor and does not specify any pieces like Paul does in the Ephesians 6:10-18 armor of God. I believe Brown’s armor metaphor is like a helmet that retains (fears, thoughts, emotions) and maybe the breastplate that covers the (heart and soul). The armor of God, as outlined by the Apostle Paul, is 6-pieces that are put on in a precise order, that have specific functions, and serve to protect, project, and overcome the evil schemes of Satan.
Second, who is this author anyway? I know Jean and a few other LGP8 members are Brené Brown followers, so I wanted to find out why. It looks like Brown was baptized in the Episcopal church, raised Catholic, and then abandoned the church for 20 years. She says that the church “didn’t meet my needs anymore.” The Gospel Coalition reviewed Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness and says she “unveils and ideology of the divine self-an elixir of New Age thought, Eastern mysticism, and pop psychology.” Nevertheless, I agree with Jean and others and think a deeper look at Brown is warranted. Capretto believes that if we interpret her terms, as a review on her book Rising Strong suggests, it might help readers find a more familiar theological context to examine her humanist position with the Christian position on leadership. Another reviewer, Heather Nelson, bluntly says “Brown isn’t writing a primer for Christians.” Nevertheless, Nelson sees a connection between Brown’s “TED Talk” and Evangelical theology. For example, Brown’s notion of “rumbling” could be compared to the Christian idea of Biblically speaking the truth in love.
I tend to agree with Nelson, the best way to digest Brown’s narrative is to translate her context and substitute “our hope in Christ” into her phrases like “aligned with our values” and “living our truth.” Translating her language of shame, vulnerability, courage, and worthiness into a hope in Christ and her faith that she calls “the organizing principle of my life” gives me the reader a better perspective of where she came from, what she went through, and where she trying to go with her personalized, life-experienced theology. So, thanks Jean. I think I have a better understanding why you and others are drawn to Brown’s narrative. However, being the armor of God guy, I think me, and Ms. Brown would have a good discussion about armor. While she uses it in a negative context in her metaphorical examples, I believe she has the literary space and flexibility to also use it in the positive context, especially when she brings the Christ factor into her future works. Unfortunately, secular sells. I have read many Christian authors who do not name their demons, remain soft on spirituality, and promote a humanistic approach to brave leadership. Thankfully, Brown is like a voice in the wilderness that is calling people toward Christ and their seat at the table of faith.
Here are a few reviews on Brown’s Brave Work book. First, Mary Albright says Brown’s work is “an absorbingly actionable handbook on creating a space for better work and more fulfilled people.” Next, Gayle Brazeau reports that Brown’s research into “vulnerability, courage and leadership” provides a foundation of resilience that helps people understand life’s challenges. There is no doubt, Brown’s work gets noticed and is a valuable addition and resource to my dissertation bibliography.
In conclusion, I wish Brown had contextualized her work more towards Christian revelation and application, but if you apply the Nelson translation theme, her book inspires theological reflection and challenges leaders to act. I am glad to see Brown engaged in the body of Christ again working to create community space where she can write and speak about her faith. I like the book.
 Brené Brown. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. (London: Vermilion, 2018) 24.
 Ibid., 99.
 Ibid., 138.
 Lisa Capretto, “Why Brené Brown ‘abandoned’ the Church — and Why She Went Back,” Huffpost, accessed April 11, 2019, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/brene-brown-church_n_56200e7be4b069b4e1fb6e7a.
 “Brené Brown and the Lie of the Divine Self,” TGC, accessed April 11, 2019, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/braving-the-wilderness/.
 Heather Nelson, “Brené Brown On Rising Strong,” The Gospel Coalition, accessed April 11, 2019, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/brene-brown-on-rising-strong/.
 Ibid., and speaking truth in love, Eph. 4:15.
 Mary Beth Albright. “Brene Brown Knows What Makes a Great Leader — and Most Politicians Wouldn’t Make the Cut.” Washingtonpost.com, 2018, Washingtonpost.com, Oct 15, 2018.
 Gayle Brazeau. “Share All Your Stories.” American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, vol. 82, no. 10, 2018, pp. 1146.
7 responses to “A Work in Progress”
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Thank you for your post, and yes, of course for picking up on the connections and dis-connections between her use of armor and your own! I think you gave it a very fair reading and review– I also think there are a lot of overlaps between her sort of “theology” and that of the Christian faith (even if they are more implicit than explicit). I’m glad that you ended up enjoying the book.
Thanks for your review and comments. It has been an honor working with you this semester.
Please put on Christ as your armor of God so you, through the Holy Spirit, can tear down some evil strongholds around you and your ministry.
Please tell your bride the treats and lemon bread were awesome! And thank you for the Idaho heart ornament.
I was researching Brene Brown’s faith background and found out much, and want to say I do not expect all our authors to be Christian. Obviously, she speaks to a lot of Christians in a variety of settings.
Christianity Today even did an article on her that I found interesting…
Thanks for modeling the kind of leadership our LGP8 program is trying to build in us. Sorry you had to fire the pastor and shut down the church, but you know, it might be just the diaspora needed for some of those east Boise families needed to move to the church God has prepared for them.
Keep your armor of God on.
Thanks for the shout outs! Yes, I’m a huge fan – there’s actually a facebook live she did discussing Black Lives Matter – that is very faith based. It’s so interesting – I read several of your responses about vulnerability to others’ posts. My son Seth was able to hear Brene Brown at the NCLS conference and we had some spirited discussions around the use of shame, vulnerability, etc – especially in using these concepts in the military. I think you’re right – some forms of leadership – military, firefighters and police – responsible for protection cannot become vulnerable or risk failure. That’s a lot of responsibility and a God ordained profession. Thank you for your courageous leadership throughout your entire career!
You must be very proud of Seth. I know I am too! And proud of you. Yes, thanks for acknowledging our leadership callings and honoring the first responders. You Rock!
I think in God’s economy He uses all kinds of diverse people to serve and lead for our good and His glory!
Stand firm, and wear Christ as your armor to battle courageously against the powers and principalities of evil.
Mike, I thought this was a well-balanced post. I was excited to read your thoughts after I saw her analogy on armor. It was weird to read abuot armor as a bad thing! You bring up great points about Brene writing about things from a secular perspective and taking out the essential things like “hope of christ” and making it more humanistic, “live your truth”.