Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Leadership Lessons from Brene Brown


I'm a huge fan of Brene Brown. She is a researcher on shame, vulnerability, and courage. As a school leader for almost 20 years and a person who is always trying to get and be better than before... I find that her lessons are extremely valuable and on point. I hope you enjoy this post and feel free to share your comments below about lessons you have learned from Brene Brown. 

On a personal note:
Only God and the enemy (as my friend Sarah Johnson says) know the struggles I've gone through with shame and how it has impacted my life. So when Brene speaks or writes, I take heed to the message she delivers. The bag of rocks that I have been able to reduce, pebble by pebble, has been possible by the teachings and impact of people like Brene. Shame is a heavy burden. Through reflection, actions, introspection, and responding to feedback, shame can be lifted or reduced to a manageable amount. I encourage anyone who is dealing with shame to seek out help. Reading the works of Brene is an excellent start to a long but rewarding journey. 

Brene's most recent book, Dare to Lead, is full of lessons for leaders. One important note I want to state is this: "Leadership is not a title." Leaders are leaders through their beliefs and actions. This book is for most everyone, and the lessons are applicable to most, regardless of possession of a "leadership title." 

Brene Brown defines a leader as "anyone who takes responsibility for finding potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential."


Courage is contagious.

Brene's research supports the idea that vulnerability is "the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure." Sometimes, people tend to see vulnerability and courage at opposite ends of a spectrum, but Brene defends that one cannot happen without the other. The other interesting component about vulnerability is that trust and vulnerability walk hand in hand. The best leaders understand that they don't have to wear a protective armor or be perfect to be considered effective or courageous, and they definitely know that perfection is not a building block of trust. Leaders provide psychological safety for their teams to be vulnerable with and in front of each other. Leadership creates a safe space that is an integral part of the work that teams must engage in. 


Clear is kind.

Leaders have to have courageous conversations with others. They have to share feedback with others, and leaders determine the tone, words, and emotions that will be used while giving feedback. Brene reminds us that when we give unclear feedback to try to "protect others' feelings", we're really just trying to make ourselves feel more comfortable. 


I've experienced first-hand how a principal I have worked for has effectively "circled back" to a contentious issue at hand. Brene shares this lesson: "In my research and in my life, I've found absolutely no benefit to pushing through a hard conversation unless there's an urgent, time-sensitive issue at hand." As leaders, we have to remember that clear feedback is HARD to hear sometimes. As leaders, we can't own the other person's emotions. They are going to be mad, hurt, surprised, and more. 

"We can't both serve people and try to control their feelings."  
- Brene Brown, Dare to Lead


Who we are is how we lead.

While it can be very hard to do, it's important for leaders to connect with our own emotions as well as the emotions of those we lead. Brene describes Armored Leadership vs Daring Leadership, which consists of dichotomies such as "Being a knower and being right vs. Being a learner and getting it right" and "Rewarding exhaustion as a status symbol and attaching productivity to self-worth vs Modeling rest, play, and recovery."  

While fear will always be present when we rumble with vulnerability, our response to fear will determine our success as a leader. 


Dare to Lead is full of practical ideas that are backed by research, and Brene's writing style is concise, real, and relatable. I encourage everyone to put this book on their reading list! 














1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this great post on leadership! Daring Greatly taught me so much about courage and some of my own limitations. One of my biggest take-aways was "What is worth doing even if I fail?" Dare to Lead is on my summer reading list!

    I couldn't agree with you more when you state that "Leadership is not a title." Everyone leads whether through silence or engagement, official positions or someone simply influencing the situations around them. We all have the capacity to influence!

    You also mentioned having courageous conversations. What techniques have you found for balancing tact and truth, leadership and friendship? On one hand, I can be very honest in giving feedback, but I also value the friendships that been formed. I oftentimes struggle with balancing those.

    Thanks again for your post!

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