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.” 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.” 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.” 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!