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

I Dare You!

Written by: on April 11, 2019

It’s no secret to the LGP8’s that I hold Brené Brown in high regard.  She holds three social work degrees – BSW, MSW, and PhD from the University of Houston – and is credentialed at the highest level in Social Work practice.  At her core, she is a passionate researcher, which is a highly espoused value in the social work field.  Research is directly connected to ethical practice.  Research is directly connected to lifelong learning.  And research is directly connected to credibility.  When I highlighted the issue of credibility concerns amongst evangelicals in my review of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, by Noll, I reinforced the following concepts connected to ensuring credibility – deliver results; be transparent; make tough calls; be consistent; and lead by example.  Even though these credibility tenets were delivered in a presentation by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, Brené Brown’s research on courageous leadership supports Wright’s leadership structure.

Not everyone has the same affinity towards Brené Brown that I do.  In online reviews there seemed to be a common feeling that “…it was the same information from those two books [Daring Greatly and Rising Strong] repackaged and rebranded for organizational leaders. I made it through about 80 pages before realizing it felt like a slog that wasn’t really offering me anything new or original.  As a disclaimer, if you’re a person in a leadership position who has never read Daring Greatly or Rising Strong, this book probably has a lot to offer you. But for me, it just didn’t have anything new.”[1]  Even though I’ve read and taught the content of all of Brené Brown’s prior texts, I am still inspired by the “new” content.  Yes there are threads of similarity, but those similarities reinforce the research which clearly identifies vulnerability and courage as key components of functioning well.  “Self-Awareness and self-love matter.  Who we are is how we lead.  The greatest barrier to courageous leadership is not fear—it’s how we respond to our fear. Our armor—the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that we use to protect ourselves when we aren’t willing and able to rumble with vulnerability—move us out of alignment with our values, corrode trust with our colleagues and teams, and prevent us from being our most courageous selves.”[2]  So regardless of your situation – parent, partner, leader, employee, church member, child, student, community member, and/or friend – the same principles exist.  And Dare to Lead is an excellent leadership manual which continues to reinforce the same evidenced based research in its specific context.

In prior blogs I’ve referenced the outstanding leadership conference (NCLS) I attended in February.  One of the highlights of the conference was hearing Brené Brown present on this very text.  Her presentation was powerful – she was presenting to a room of almost 3000 – and every single person was engaged.  As she spoke, I tried to capture her wisdom manually (she does not permit recordings or videos).   There were so many profound statements she made – and here are my favorites pertaining to leadership:

  • You have to spend a reasonable amount of time dealing with fears and feelings, or an unreasonable amount of time dealing with problem behaviors
  • It’s difficult to lead in a culture of change in an atmosphere of fear
  • Failure is a requirement for innovation
  • If you are not willing to have difficult conversations, you will not be leading in five years.
  • Opting out of hard conversations is the definition of privilege.
  • If in doubt, act.
  • It’s more important to not be a knower, but a learner.
  • I only take feedback from other brave people.
  • Gratitude helps you lean into joy.
  • Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.
  • Today I choose courage over my own comfort.

 These statements of courageous leadership are powerful.  I imagine there will be some in the cohort who feel Brené’s lack of Biblical reference hinders her content.  I respectfully disagree.  Brené does claim a Christian faith and many of her references to fear, vulnerability, gratitude, courage – while not linked to Biblical teaching in her writing – are truly Christian concepts.  And she’s a proponent for armoring up!  Leadership is hard.  Conversations can be hard. But courage, even when it causes discomfort, is imperative.  After all, “fear fills in the data gaps.”  [3]If we don’t have a beginning, middle, and end we will create our own narrative.   This created narrative is a direct result of the challenges leaders face in having the hard conversations.  My commitment, via inspiration from Brené, is to armor up with courage, gratitude, acceptance of failure, vulnerability and active listening in difficult conversations.  Leadership is never perfected – it’s only shaped and formed through experience.  Leadership is a God given opportunity to speak into the lives and experiences of others.  I dare you to lead!

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40109367-dare-to-lead#other_reviews

[2] https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/

[3] https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/

About the Author

Jean Ollis

11 responses to “I Dare You!”

  1. Dave Watermulder says:

    Right back in the core of your happy place, this week :). I think. your summation about the many leadership insights in Brown’s book is right on: “These statements of courageous leadership are powerful.” Each of the statements about leadership in the list you developed is powerful and worth thinking and talking about. They are so good! Anyway, I’m glad to hear you so excited. I think I need to bring these ideas to my team as well.

  2. Mike says:

    First, I am so glad we have made it this fare in our LGP program. Not only have we all survived this far, we added Coleen to the team! PTL. Wow… this is truly a great team, “Go Eights!”
    I’m glad to see you say Brown is a “proponent for armoring up.” I do see her as an implied proponent for Biblical values, principles, and applications. I read around her biographies and glad to see after her 20 years in the desert she is back and engaging community with the body of Christ. I had a 20-year stint in the dessert, so I do not cast stones. I am thankful for God’s grace and patience for me. PTL God captured me inside Romans 8:28.
    A wise man once told me, don’t cast the first stone, else the dump truck of life will unload a truck full of stones on your head. (paraphrase censored for GFU blog release! Lol) I accept your dare!
    Put it on, keep it on, and stand firm!

  3. Jay says:

    Hi Jean,

    Thanks for your words about Brene Brown’s lack of use of Scripture. I am okay with it, I never expected we would only read Christian authors. I wondered if she had a church background, and found this,


  4. Great post Jean, it is funny how we both started our blogs highlighting the fact that she has a BSW, MSW and a DSW and is a social worker to the core. Brené is definitely a hero when it comes to bringing unique aspects of leadership to the forefront and challenging us all to lead with vulnerability. Reading the book felt like listening to her live, but the live presentation was much better, especially in that setting. Also was great to see that she found her faith again and it is obvious her principles are derived from this.

  5. Hi Jean,

    Thanks for your encouraging post. As I read it I was literally thinking of a really difficult situation I need to address, one of those conversations that is so awkward and hard to have, and which I’ve been pushing away. And so, with your encouragement, I will step out, and ask for that conversation to happen.

    It reminds me of a card-playing analogy that I’ve often used in my life. If you’re dealt a bad hand, you have to “play out your problems”. If you get rid of your problem cards earlier in the game, your partner may rescue you or your opponent may not have the means to trump you which is your worst fear. Sometimes they do, but then there is another round after this one.

    So thanks! I think!! 🙂

  6. Jason Turbeville says:

    You wrote in your list of statements: It’s difficult to lead in a culture of change in an atmosphere of fear. This is something I am really working on as well. Since I am working to discover the best way to change a church’s culture I have to understand what the fear of change might cause within a church but we need to change to meet the needs of the world. Thanks for your post and your heart.


  7. Dan Kreiss says:


    This is my first foray into any of her work and I am hooked. I understand your perspective now and see why you would find her work so relevant.

    I am curious as to how you think her work might be applicable to your area of interest, refugees. In using her research through the lens of Meyer’s ‘Culture Map’ do you see room for application or is Brown’s work to Western to be used in any meaningful way in cross-cultural contexts? If leaders in non-profits worked from positions of vulnerability with refugees would those refugees respond positively or find the flat rather than hierarchical structure puzzling and confusing?

  8. Greg says:

    I had never read any other of her materials. The first I had heard of her was quotes that you have used in your blogs through the years. So I appreciated this book and throughly enjoyed it. I would like to read it again. I bought the audio version of this book as well as it will allow me to listen when traveling this summer to it again. This idea of true vulnerability is something that I need to continue to think about especially in regards to my current cultural context. We have made great strides but are not where I would like us to be.

    I will admit that I am a little jealous that you all had the opportunity to attend this conference to hear her speak. I wondered if she had a Christian belief, I too thought many of her concepts were biblical. Thanks again Jean for the way you often challenge us to think deeper than we are comfortable doing.

  9. Trisha Welstad says:

    Jean, I am going to hold on to a few of those statements from Brown that you wrote down. In particular, these three were prominant to me:
    -You have to spend a reasonable amount of time dealing with fears and feelings, or an unreasonable amount of time dealing with problem behaviors
    -If you are not willing to have difficult conversations, you will not be leading in five years.
    -Opting out of hard conversations is the definition of privilege.”

    Beyond relating to them personally, I see them in the church and in my research area with regard to leadership. Thank you for sharing and leading the way with your own commitment to courageous leadership!

  10. Kyle Chalko says:

    Great job Jean. Brene is one of my favorite authors now too. I think she brings into leadership something that has been missing for a long time. I also think she might continue to solidify herself amongst some of the icons of leadership literature. Because her writing is research focused it puts her work up there with Good to Great by Jim Collins.

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