Daring Leadership


Brene Brown

We all want to be brave with our lives and work. It’s why we’re here. But, for most of us, our bravery lives on a big continuum, hovering right around “I got this” on a good day, and “God, help me” on a bad one.

Bravery tends to be that illusive feeling we all want but few can claim. So, on the back of her visit to Australia with The Growth Faculty tour, Your Career looks to the leadership phenomenon, Brene Brown about how leading with bravery begins with vulnerability.

She has said that she start every day by just putting her feet on the floor and saying, ‘Today I will choose courage over comfort. I can’t make any promises for tomorrow, but today, I will choose to be brave.’

She has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, authoring five #1 New York Times bestsellers. Her TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world, with over 35 million views. Brene Brown knows a thing or two about embracing our imperfections as gifts.

Brown says in her book Dare To Lead, “I have found that courage could be taught, developed and measured. Courage is a collection of four skill sets supported by twenty-eight behaviours. It just requires a commitment to doing bold work, having tough conversations and showing up with our whole hearts. Is it easy? No. Choosing courage over comfort is never easy. Is it worth it? Always.”

Courage over Comfort.”

Initially a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, Brown focused on authentic leadership and wholeheartedness within families, schools, and organisations. She discovered that leaders in organisations ranging from small entrepreneurial start-ups and family-owned businesses to non-profits, civic organisations and Fortune 50 companies, were all asking the same questions:

How can we cultivate braver, more daring leaders? And, how do you embed the value of courage in your culture?

This led Brown to write her most recent book. Dare To Lead is based on her new research conducted with leaders, change makers and culture shifters; she explains how to put those ideas into practice so we can step up and lead more effectively.

“Leadership is not about titles, status and power over people. Leaders are people who hold themselves accountable for recognising the potential in people and ideas, and developing that potential,” she said.

Dare To Lead is for everyone who is ready to choose courage over comfort, make a difference and lead. It’s about leaning into hard conversations, being super clear what your values are and living them, holding people accountable and always doing the right thing as a leader yourself, building trust and learning to rise after setbacks.

I ask her, from a leaders perspective, what can team members do to earn trust?

“We asked a thousand leaders to list marble-earning behaviours and the most common answer was asking for help,” Brown explains. “When it comes to people who do not habitually ask for help, the leaders we polled explained that they would not delegate important work to them because the leaders did not trust that they would raise their hands and ask for help.”

“Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help.’ The truth is that we are both and that trust is, in fact, earned in the smallest of moments.”

Perhaps leaders would do well to have the tagline from Dare to Lead as their mantra: Brave work. Tough Conversations. Whole hearts.

Brown’s research has lead her to the conclusion that people who love and feel lovable and can experience a sense of belonging can accept that they are worthy of love and belonging. She says a strong belief in our own worthiness can be learned.

Living wholeheartedly, at the end of the day, means that no matter what you manage to do and what you don’t manage to do, you are enough. It means that even though you know you are imperfect and sometimes afraid, you are also brave and worthy of love and belonging. Use this to empower yourself as a stronger leader.

What must we cultivate to embrace wholeheartedness and vulnerability?

  • Authenticity and let go of what people think
  • Self-compassion and let go of perfectionism
  • Resiliency and let go of numbing and powerlessness
  • Gratitude and Joy and let go of scarcity
  • Trust and Faith and let go of the need for certainty
  • Creativity and let go of comparison
  • Play and Rest and let go of “busy” and “stress” as self worth and status symbol
  • Calmness and let go of anxiety
  • Meaningful work and let go of what you are supposed” to do
  • Laughter, Song and Dance and let go of cool” and “always in control”

Leadership is not about titles, status and power over people. Leaders are people who hold themselves accountable for recognising the potential in people and ideas, and developing that potential. ”

Brown is known for her inspiring quotes, such as “Courage over comfort,” and “Courage is contagious even when there are hard endings.”

Daring and courageous leadership in our culture, which is so defined by fear and uncertainty, requires building courage skills. The irony is, we’re choosing not to invest in developing the hearts and minds of our leaders. So, what can we do better? Increase our Empathy, connection and courage to start.

The CEO Magazine asked Brown in their article Failure is part of the ride, what is the one thing she’s learned above all else from years of research?

She answers; “The only thing I know for sure is that if you’re going to dare greatly, you’re going to get your ass kicked at some point. If you choose courage, you will absolutely know failure, disappointment, setback, even heartbreak. That’s why we call it courage. That’s why it’s so rare.”