Brown’s Dare to Lead describes the four skills needed to become a courageous leader. The first skill is Rumbling with Vulnerability. Brown had assumed that the biggest barrier to courageous leadership would be fear, but her research indicated that fear is not a barrier. The real barrier is how people armor themselves to deal with fear. Curiosity is the key to rumbling with vulnerability. The second skill is Living into Your Values. Courageous leaders can do tough things, give hard feedback, and put bold ideas into motion because they operate with a clear set of values and behaviors that line up with those values. The third skill, Braving Trust, can be tricky because many leaders don’t know how to talk about trust. It’s no secret that the highest performing teams are built on a foundation of trust and this skill that can be taught and learned. The fourth skill is Learning to Rise and deals with the ability to re-set after an error or mistake. The ability to be resilient helps leaders learn from mistakes quickly, share those learnings, and continue to move forward positively. In summation, “Courage is a skill set we can teach, measure, and observe, but we are choosing not to because it is an investment of energy and time … If we need braver leaders, but we’re not investing in skilling them up, what is getting in the way?” asked Brown.
When I saw Brown’s Dare to Lead on our reading list, I assumed it would be a source for my research on developing coaching networks to help facilitate adaptive leadership skills among church planters. After initially skimming the text, I thought while helpful; the focus was on leading oneself rather than others (this already doesn’t make sense!) Upon a closer read, I found Brown’s work not only helpful to my research but also quite an epiphany for me.
Brown describes curiosity as the DNA of the grounded confidence to rumble with vulnerability. Curiosity is critical to staying open to oneself (“Haidt’s elephant” – that is, why am I reacting this way) as well as staying open to the other. The critical skill is applying curiosity when instead I would much rather “armor up” to protect my ego. Brown describes several questions and starters to enhance the process of continuously listening and asking powerful open-ended questions. “Tell me more.” “I’m wondering …” “Help me understand…” are some of the staples of powerful questions used by coaches to help clients gain clarity. What Brown seems to contend is that we need to coach ourselves. That is, we need to pause, continue to listen (actively), and ask timely (powerful) questions to help the client gain clarity. The difference in this scenario from a classical coaching relationship is the courageous leader becomes both the client and the coach. This desired result speaks to one of the powerful collateral effects of coaching. That is that as pastors experience being coached, they also learn how to use coaching skills to develop others as well as themselves. Brown’s work contends that curiosity and knowledge-building grow together fostering a synergistic result. Brown’s description of this symbiotic relationship illustrates how the clarity gained from coaching by the client not only helps them by becoming unstuck to achieve their goals but also to learn the critical association of coaching and acquisition of clarity.
Brown’s chapter on Learning to Rise is worth the cost of the whole book. In learning how to pastor local churches in general and planting new churches in particular, we (the Vineyard) always affirm the freedom to fail or fall forward in the right direction. However, I have always contended if we never teach or model this how does the pastor or church planter ever learn how to “rise or develop resiliency” after setbacks or failures. Brown contends she seldom sees the “fall forward” or “fail fast” slogans put into practice alongside actual reset skills and honest rumbles about the shame that almost always accompanies failure. I love Brown’s approach to teaching falling and failing upfront as people join her organization. “We expect you to be brave. That means that you should expect to fall. We’ve got a plan.” I think this is the ultimate critical skill, the ultimate adaptive leadership perspective required to teach every pastor and church planter. I feel such passion for this because I see so many struggle and fail and not get back up. We who live and lead in the real world know we will always struggle and at times, fail. The key is to continue to rise, to reset, to learn, to grow healthier in service to ourselves and others. Learning to rise upfront enables us all to be amazingly brave for the long haul. I take my hat off to Brene Brown and look forward to incorporating her concepts in my coaching networks for church planters and pastors.
 Gordon, Chad, Blanchard LeaderChat, October 10, 2018, Accessed 04/09/2019. https://leaderchat.org/2018/10/10/brave-work-tough-conversations-whole-hearts-bren-brown-on-dare-to-lead/
 Brown, Brene, Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, and Whole Hearts (New York, NY: Random House, 2018) 171.
 Brown, Dare to Lead, 12.
 Brown, Dare to Lead, 175.
 Brown, Dare to Lead, 242.