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Review of Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Brené Brown is one of my favorite speakers, teachers, and writers as she reaches between the gaps of psychology, work place culture, religion, and faith.  I have been an avid studier and reader of Brené for the past couple of years and have been taken aback by her influence of wisdom that seems to be penetrating every sphere, because no matter how successful our companies or missions are, they will always be filled with people.

So Brené steps up to the plate, equipping leaders of companies, organizations, churches, and movements both in positions of head leadership to midlevel with skills of how to have courageous conversation which she terms “rumbling.”  I learned of Dare To Lead at Catalyst Atlanta, a Christian leadership conference and was eager to read as I had read a number of Brené’s previous works.  In beginning Dare to Lead, I was honestly somewhat disappointed and curious if I would finish the book.  I found the first part of Brené’s work to be somewhat repetitive of previous works, just reapplied to the workplace.  I missed the stories and examples offered in Braving the Wilderness and The Gift of Imperfection which really gave the concepts she was describing flesh and bones.   Nevertheless, I persisted.

Speaking is about the uncontrollable, unconventional art of connection.

Wrapping up my first year of my full time, big girl position, in my first year of supervising direct reports, I kept reading to see what I could learn.  And the insights were endless.  Brené entered into the work place which can seem so institutionalized and cold sharing on shame, vulnerability, the need for connection, and ways to show up brave, bold, and honest.

She told stories of her work with various companies on the ideas of courage and connection including various military units, fuel companies, and countless other variations of companies internationally.  Yet, what struck me the most were her stories of taking what they teach and train into practice into their own companies through activities like having each person identify and share their 2 key values, why those are important to them, and how this evidences in their work.

Amidst each of these topics, Brené dives in deep on empathy.  She offers incredibly insightful do’s and don’t’s on entering into difficulty with people.  I found myself wanting to soak in every word she shared as I have personally been so built up by healthy empathy and so turned off and angered by unhealthy empathy, to the degree that I was at a local salad and sandwich restaurant when their computer system was down.  Naturally (because these kind of things always happen to me) I was the person in line ordering when everything crashed.  I found myself starting the narrative of “Of course this happened to me” and beginning to make a plan B then I begin to really see the girl across the counter from me.  Beneath her hat and brave face, her eyes were darting in every direction seeing all of the customers she needed to serve, unsure of how to respond in this moment.  So, I leaned in.  I heard Brené coaching me in my head on what to say and what to avoid.  Sure, I in no way fixed the situation but I was charged to be present with her in that moment of fear and panic.

A response can rarely make something better.  Connection is what heals.

Upon reading Dare to Lead I have found myself using skills Brené teaches right away in my work place, on my small teams and big ones, with my direct reports and with those I report to.  I have found myself seeing the people around me differently and as I value them more and lean into my curiosity, finding myself much more generous with them.  I have since recommended Dare to Lead to many due to its specific insight, relevant research, and challenging message that is vital to any company culture.

Vulnerability is the greatest casualty of trauma.


dalton-31My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

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