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

Let’s rumble!

Written by: on April 11, 2019

Dare to Lead was my introduction to Brene Brown, and I was excited to dive in having heard great things about her work. I was not disappointed. Brown, a research professor from the University of Houston, challenged me with a new glossary of terms, offering that leaders must be brave enough to be vulnerable as they lead people and teams. From her introduction, she invites her readers into the heart of leadership by embracing the “rumble”:

A rumble is a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, as psychologist Harriet Lerner teaches, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.[1]

Throughout the book, she gives excellent examples of what the best rumbles look like. However, there was a pattern in each example: leaders take off their armor. As I read each chapter, I rejoiced when I came across areas where I have seen small victories yet lamented at how thick my armor remains in other areas. Brene’s path forward to wholeheartedness through vulnerability can be a scary one. She defines it as “the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure…it’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome. ”[2] Her research is transformative, and it reminds me that imperfect leaders are impactful leaders. Courage to ask questions rather than issue edicts, to get in the middle of chaotic problem-solving with others, to admit fear and failure…this is characteristic of daring leadership.

Even though Brown’s audience is not necessarily Christian, her words could also describe the Spirit-empowered life of faith in Jesus. As ministry leaders, we spend our lives inviting others, just as Jesus did, to leave what they have known, and embrace a new, right-side up life where much is uncertain, but everything is promised. It reminds me of my son’s favorite portion of CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Mr. Beaver responds to Lucy’s question regarding Aslan, the lion:

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”[3]

The Christian life is one of incredible vulnerability with God and others. Therefore, shouldn’t Christian leaders be willing to go first when it comes to rumbling with vulnerability, knowing their identity is secure? It seems Brene has a lot to offer us if we are willing to assume a new posture (sans defensive armor), learn a new language that is free from cynicism and sarcasm, and practice gratitude and generosity.

…let’s rumble!



[1] Brené Brown, Dare to Lead: Bold Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts, 2018, 10.

[2] Ibid, 19.

[3] C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Chronicles of Narnia / C. S. Lewis (New York: HaperTrophy, 1980).

About the Author

Rhonda Davis

Rhonda is passionate about loving her Creator, her wonderful husband, and her three amazing sons. She serves as VP of Enrollment Management & Student Development at The King's University in Southlake, TX.

12 responses to “Let’s rumble!”

  1. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Awesome Narnia reference Rhonda! Thank you for encouraging the rumble!

  2. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    I loved your blog but must confess that I still wrestle with the term of “rumble”. I always hear the voice of the famous boxing announcer who utilizes the opening “Let’s get ready to rumble!” when introducing the fighters for the given match. Somehow, your post reminded me that armor is not bad but neither is intended to be worn all the time. I wonder if this also might be a helpful construct for me to remember when and where I need to wear my armor (and thanks to Brene when I need to take it off!) Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Thanks, Harry. I have to admit the same song went through my mind. I like the term “rumble” because it puts everyone on equal ground in terms of their ability to contribute to problem-solving. It gives permission to take the armor off because everyone is searching for the solution together.

  3. Mario Hood says:

    Best line of the week: Her research is transformative, and it reminds me that imperfect leaders are impactful leaders!

    Do you feel like women leaders have to be “perfect” over male leaders more so?

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      I appreciate your kind words, Mario. I’m not sure that female leaders face insecurity any more than male leaders, but they do often come to the table sensing there is more for them to prove. It seems that this can be taken to an extreme in terms of perfectionism. I know this is something I have wrestled with. However, I wonder if it is due to my gender or more to my humanness.

  4. Digby Wilkinson says:

    I believe you are right when you say the ‘Christian journey is a vulnerable journey’. However we spend quite a bit of time turning it it in to a safe prescriptive journey. It takes a degree of vulnerability and values to challenge the internal structures of faith communities so vulnerability can resurface. It’s a challenge in challenging socially diverse times.

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Right on, Digby. I agree with your assessment that, in many cases, we have tried our best to make this a ‘safe, predictive journey.’ I am not sure we are doing favors for those who are new to the faith when we disregard the messiness. Life-change requires faith, and faith requires vulnerability. Are there certain habits and practices that could help us lean into the challenge?

  5. Andrea Lathrop says:

    I love your question at the end and agree – Christian leaders should be the most appropriately vulnerable leaders. After all, we have the example of Jesus. I often wonder at the vulnerability of the incarnation, 30 years of obscurity, His public ministry model and what we celebrate as Holy Week. Cheering you on!

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      “…the vulnerability of the incarnation, 30 years of obscurity…” there is much to unpack in this statement. I wonder what Jesus learned about rumbling with vulnerability during those 30 years. We are given a glimpse through the recorded prayers and narratives of his conversations with his disciples in Scripture, but I am sure he rumbled quitely a time or two. Blessings!

  6. Mary Mims says:

    Rhonda, I love the rumble concept, in theory. However, I would have to read more and understand how people can really come out of it in tack. I’m good with fighting, but it is easy for it to get nasty. I want to look more into this whole thing. We will see how it works.

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      This is a good point, Mary. It is true that it is one thing to learn about how to rumble, and an entirely different thing to facilitate the process with people. Brene does seem to offer a way forward through setting boundaries and ground rules, but we must all grow in our security in order to get the most out of the process. I’m interested to hear more about how Brene’s work serves you in your ministry context.

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