Brené Brown’s latest best seller, Dare to Lead is in part a compilation of her previous books, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, while adding her newest research on what makes brave leaders. Brave leaders are not an easy sell as becoming a brave leader means embracing difficulty in a culture full of over-stuffed recliners and Netflix. In all of Brown’s research she finds that the best leaders are those who are willing to be courageous through rumbling with vulnerability, living into their values, braving trust, and learning to rise from failure and set-backs.
Brown notes that she has selfish reasons for writing Dare to Lead, she wants to be a better leader and she wants more brave leaders in the world so that her children will live in a better place. I am with her. Her reasons for writing Dare to Lead are my reasons for doing this doctorate. I want to grow in my capabilities to lead others and I want to see my own work be formative for the world around me, particularly for my children. However, what I realize from both Dare to Lead and A Failure of Nerve, two challenging but insightful reads on self-leadership, is that in order to lead others I must first consider my own leadership. Am I willing to be vulnerable? Am I living my values? Am I trustworthy? Am I growing in my own resilience? To help answer these questions, Brown has created an assessment on her website along with a workbook. Of course, I took the assessment and downloaded the free workbook. I like knowing where I am at in regard to my own leadership.
But Dare to Lead does have a few drawbacks. As critics will note, there is much repeated in the text that is found elsewhere. If the reader has not taken in Brown’s other books they may find the text refreshing. But there is another point of contention for the reader. With so much valid and valuable information, it would be nearly impossible to absorb on a cross-country flight, even with a short stopover. This is Brown’s hope for readers but the amount of work that needs to be done by the reader to really know the content personally and be a braver leader is not fully possible in a one-day process.
For example, in reviewing this text, I kept finding one of two things happening. I would either look at headings, major sections, and the index for an overview or, more often, I would get stuck in a section applying it to my own world. This is the challenge with a text like Dare to Lead. You either summarize the book or you dive deep into one particular aspect and start doing your work.
In order to find much help from Dare to Lead, the reader has to look at themselves first, then they can read for application to their field. This seems to be a strategy of Brown, as she writes very personally much of the time. She is modeling the vulnerability that all leaders must own if they are to move toward their values or become resilient leaders. It is nearly impossible to read about the “Ham Fold-over Debacle” in the Learning to Rise chapter without thinking, “Oh yeah, I can resonate with those moments in life when everything seems to break down and my emotions are hurled toward others.”
To take the path of vulnerability for a moment, I have felt the wheels come off on a few levels the past month. If we are being honest, roadside assistance has been needed much more since having children. I tend to think of these difficult experiences or pit stops as educational pathways. Currently, I consider myself enrolled in a bachelor’s degree in parenting, a continuing education course on communication in marriage, and a doctorate in Leadership and Global Perspectives to round out my work life. With regard to the past few weeks, I am also now including an experience in trauma therapy, from a bomb that has rocked our family’s world. With each of these, and especially in crisis, my ability to lead myself is tested. The questions of vulnerability and trust resurface and I wonder if I am living my values and how I will stay courageous enough to rise. Really, I just want that arm chair and a show. But then, in my commitment to do my work, I own the fact that I am paying for these courses, whether in time or money or relationships, and I am grateful for the community in the midst of them who continues to encourage me forward and pray us into miracle territory.
While I could spend much time on each section of Dare to Lead personally, I see the great value in the principals of Brown’s text being utilized by communities and organizations to create systemic healthy change. Within my own research Brown’s book is a resource to help church leadership reflect on why churches are not more diverse from the leadership to the pew. Brown even mentions in her section on “Rumbling with Vulnerability,” that armored leadership includes “tolerating discrimination, echo chambers and a “fitting-in” culture” while daring leadership cultivates a culture of belonging, inclusivity, and diverse perspectives.” Here again, the culture is shaped by the individuals that make it up, with true belonging to one’s self being the first step to accepting others. Then strategies toward the inclusion of others involve “recognizing achievement, validating contribution; developing a system that includes power with, power to, and power within; and knowing your value.” I intend to explore Brown’s research on how each of these strategies may help church leadership more accurately reflect the kingdom of God in practice.
 Brown, Brené. Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts. Penguin Random House: New York, 2018, 244.
 Ibid, 107.
 Ibid, 108.