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This month’s recommended pages are from Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead – Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

Who is Brené Brown and why are we reading her book?

Brené Brown shot to fame after her TED talk on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ went viral (to date it’s had more than 35 million views…so yeah, that’s pretty well watched). She’s a research professor, Founder/CEO and best-selling author. Her 20 years of studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy have resulted in several books on the subject, this being her 6th book, and her first specifically about business.

Here at FPB we love all things to do with courageous and brave company cultures and speaking up about the things that really matter, so this seemed like the perfect book to choose. We put our phones down for a while, pulled out our notebooks and got curious to learn how to be braver leaders.

Who’s this book for?

Any managers or leaders…or parents…or actually any human beings to be honest. This book is all about how we lead and interact with others in an authentic and emotionally literate way and I think we probably all need a bit of help with that sometimes.

If you’re already interested in emotional intelligence, growth mindset or psychological safety and wanting to improve the trust, creativity and collaboration in your company, work on your inter-personal relationships and show up in an authentic and honest way with those you work with, then this book is for you.

In a nutshell…what’s it all about?

This is a step-by-step, interactive guide-book for leading (and living) bravely. It focuses on creating communicative cultures of courage, trust and transparency, with the marvellous side-effect of greater performance and innovation.

A central focus of the book is the answer to the question ‘What, if anything, about the way people are leading today needs to change in order for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly changing environment where we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation?’. Across all the research that Brené’s team undertook with senior leaders, the unequivocal answer was ‘We need braver leaders and more courageous cultures.’ It turns out, we can’t have courage without vulnerability and this book is all about exploring this very thing.

Why you might not like this book?

Brené pulls no punches. Her work is grounded in solid research and a persistent encouragement to challenge conventional wisdom, take off your armour, own your own emotional reactions and stand fast in the face of whatever comes your way as a leader. If you’re not up for this and don’t want to do some work on how you show up or have the conversations that matter regardless of discomfort, then I wouldn’t recommend it – you won’t be able to view yourself and your reactions the same way again.

Read this if you’re curious to learn about:

How to be a courageous leader (and person). Being courageous is all about being able to lean into discomfort. I love this quote: “Daring leadership is about serving other people, not ourselves” - it’s not our job to control someone else’s emotions, rather it’s to show up and understand them.

How to ‘rumble’ with vulnerability. What does vulnerability mean? How, alongside courage, can it positively impact the trust, collaboration and cohesion of our teams and organisations? Brené helps us to understand how to start ‘rumbling’ with vulnerability with our teams (i.e. challenging ourselves and figuring out the boundaries and gaps), why we wear armour and how to take it off for the good of ourselves and others.

How dealing with shame and providing empathy will lead to curiosity and grounded confidence. We will all have experienced shame in our lives both inside and outside of work, it’s a universal feeling and one of the most toxic and destructive ones out there. Brené talks about the antidote to shame as being empathy, which she defines as “not connecting to an experience, [rather it’s] connecting to the emotions that underpin an experience.” Empathy not only provides support, it creates an empowering space for someone to move towards a more open, curious and confident state to find their way through challenges and difficult situations.

How to live into your values and learn to rise. From Brené's research she has found that understanding and living by our values is vital to us being brave leaders who role model the behaviour we wish to see from others - “daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things. Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy; and it’s practicing your values, not just professing them.” There are plenty of practical exercises throughout the book to explore cases and offer suggestions of how to ‘rumble’ in different situations, the final three sections of the book offer ways to put the principles into practice.

As Brené puts it, “we have to teach people how to land before they jump. When you go skydiving, you spend a lot of upfront time jumping off a ladder and learning how to hit the ground without hurting yourself. The same is true in leadership – we can’t expect people to be brave and risk failure if they’re not prepped for hard landings.”

Where to look if you want to know more

– Brené has devoted a whole section of her website to this topic and there are some great free and paid resources on there - check it out:

A juicy quote to end on...

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.”

- Theodore Roosevelt

Yes Theodore and Brené! Let's do this.

By Emily Lowe

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