Brene Brown – a four time #1 New York Times best-selling author – has spent the past two decades studying emotions and experiences, and how to use them to create meaning in our lives. In Dare To Lead, she’s turned her focus to how to use those principles to leadership.
The outcome of that work is four skill sets that are teachable and measurable, and thus, can make a positive difference for you and your entire company. Join us for the next 12 minutes as we explore how you can Dare To Lead.
Part One: Rumbling with Vulnerability
Daring is not saying, “I’m willing to risk failure.” Daring is saying, “I know I will eventually fail, and I’m still all in.” Vulnerability is the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. There are six myths of vulnerability.
Myth #1: Vulnerability is a weakness. Truth: One cannot be courageous without also being vulnerable.
Myth #2: I don’t do vulnerability. Truth: You can do vulnerability, or it can do you. When you pretend that you “don’t do vulnerability,” you let fear drive your thinking and behaviour.
Myth #3: I can do it alone. Truth: Humans are hardwired for connection.
Myth #4: You can engineer the uncertainty and discomfort out of vulnerability. Truth: When you try to strip uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure from the relational experience, you bankrupt courage.
Myth #5: Trust comes before vulnerability. Truth: We need to trust to be vulnerable, and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust.
Myth #6: Vulnerability is disclosure. Truth: Vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability. Think about why you are sharing and with whom.
To feel is to be vulnerable. Believing that vulnerability is weakness is believing that feeling is weakness. Like it or not, we are emotional beings. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging and joy.
When communicating difficult topics, remember this: clear is kind, unclear is unkind. As a leader, you must acknowledge your faults, even when it’s scary. When you find the courage to enter that cave, you face your fears and find the power and wisdom to serve others.
When you, as a leader, are open about your fears and feelings, it gives your team members permission to do the same. Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behaviour.
When your team members talk, really listen. If the conversation becomes unproductive, it’s okay to call a time-out. Other people’s emotions are not your jobs. You can’t both serve people and try to control their feelings. Wholeheartedness is when we engage in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to think “No matter what, I am enough”
Many companies think that without the heart (vulnerability and other emotions), we’ll be more productive, efficient and easier to manage. Therefore, many work cultures require us to bury our feelings. This contributes to a rise of shame, the feeling that makes us question whether we’re worthy of love, belonging and connection.
As leaders, we’ve grown up being taught – either explicitly or implicitly – that we need to protect ourselves from being vulnerable. There are sixteen types of ‘armored’ leadership – that emerged from leadership research.
1. Driving Perfectionism and Fostering Fear of Failure
Perfectionism is the self-destructive belief that if everything is perfect, one can avoid painful feelings of blame, judgment and shame. However, it often leads to more shame and self-blame. This can be avoided by encouraging healthy striving, empathy, and self-compassion. Conversations about perfectionism within teams can be healing and powerful.
2. Working from Scarcity and Squandering Opportunities for Joy and Recognition
When we feel joy, we feel incredibly vulnerable. So often we are hesitant to celebrate victories because we feel like it’s inviting disaster. Another way of foreboding joy is withholding recognition out of fear that it will make employees complacent. This can be avoided by practising gratitude and celebrating milestones and victories. At LinkedIn, retention rates are nearly 10 percent higher for new hires who are recognised four or more times.
We cannot selectively numb emotion. If we numb the dark, we numb the light. For many, the first response to vulnerability and discomfort is to make it go away. We do that by numbing, whether with alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money or many other things. This can be avoided by setting boundaries and finding real comfort.
4. Propagating the False Dichotomy of Victim or Viking, Crush or Be Crushed
Life is not a binary world of opposites – it is not kill or be killed. This can be avoided by practising integration – the act of bringing together all the parts of ourselves.
5. Being a Knower and Being Right
It’s dangerous to feel like you always need to be right because it discourages people from speaking up. This can be avoided by being a learner and getting it right. Change always knowing into always learning.
6. Hiding Behind Cynicism
Cynicism and sarcasm can bring down relationships, teams and cultures when left unchecked. This can be avoided by modelling clarity, kindness and hope. Cynicism and sarcasm often mask anger, fear, or feelings of inadequacy. Be brave enough to say what you mean.
7. Using Criticism as Self-Protection
Criticism often arises from fear or feelings of unworthiness because it shifts the spotlight and puts it on someone or something else. This can be avoided by making contributions and taking risks.
8. Using Power Over
Power isn’t inherently good or bad but it can be dangerous when it’s used incorrectly. Hierarchies in businesses can work, except when the leaders hold power over others – when their decisions benefit the minority and oppress the majority. This can be avoided by using power with, power to, and power within.
9. Hustling for Your Worth
When we do not understand our value, we often hustle and jump in everywhere, including where we’re not strong or not needed, to prove that we deserve a seat at the table. This wastes everyone’s time and energy. This can be avoided by knowing your value.
10. Leading for Compliance and Control
Leading for compliance and control often shuts down creative problem solving, the sharing of ideas and the foundation of vulnerability. The fewer people understand how their hard work adds value to bigger goals, the less engaged they are. This can be avoided by cultivating commitment and shared purpose.
11. Weaponising Fear and Uncertainty
In times of uncertainty, it’s common for leaders to leverage fear and then weaponise it to their advantage. Daring and ethical leaders fight against this brand of leadership. Instead, they acknowledge, name and normalise discord and difference without fueling divisiveness or benefiting from it.
12. Rewarding Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Attaching Productivity to Self-Worth
When worthiness is a function of productivity, we lose the ability to pump the brakes. We convince ourselves that downtime, like playing with our kids, hanging out with our partners, napping, or going for a run is a waste of time. This can be avoided by modelling and supporting rest, play and recovery.
13. Tolerating Discrimination, Echo Chambers, and a “Fitting-in” Culture
The greatest barrier to true belonging is fitting in or changing who we are so we can be accepted. People desperately want to be part of something, but they don’t want to sacrifice their authenticity, freedom or power to do it. This can be avoided by cultivating a culture of belonging, inclusivity and diverse perspectives.
14. Collecting Gold Stars
It is natural to want to be recognized for our achievements. But once we transition into management or leadership roles, winning medals and collecting ribbons is no longer the goal, and it can be counterproductive to effective leadership. This can be avoided by giving gold stars and rewarding others.
15. Zigzagging and Avoiding
Zigzagging is a metaphor for the energy we spend trying to dodge the bullets of vulnerability – whether it’s conflict, discomfort, confrontation or the potential for shame, hurt or criticism. This can be avoided by talking straight and taking action.
16. Leading from Hurt
Many people lead from a place of hurt and smallness, and they use their position of power to try to fill that self-worth gap. This often takes the shape of an insatiable appetite for recognition and success, of unproductive competition, and, sometimes, of having zero tolerance for risk. This can be avoided by leading from the heart. The fear of being vulnerable is universal. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, but you and your company will be stronger for it.
Shame and How To Deal With It
Shame makes us feel like we are never good enough. Shame is one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. We’re all afraid to talk about shame, but the less we talk about it, the more control it has over our lives.
Shame in the workplace can be difficult to spot. Here are some things to look for: perfectionism, favouritism, gossiping, back-channelling, comparison, self-worth tied to productivity, harassment, discrimination, power over, bullying, blaming, teasing or coverups.
Leaders have enormous power and influence and they can use that power to shame or to reinforce self-worth. One of the most common shame scenarios is how to fire employees. The best way to do it is to give people a “way out with dignity.” Be kind, clear and respectful.
Shame resistance is not possible, but shame resilience is. This is the ability to practice authenticity when we experience shame, to move through the experience without sacrificing our values, and to come out on the other side of the shame experience with more courage, compassion and connection than we had going into it.
Empathy has five elements:
Empathy Skill #1: To see the world as others see it, or perspective taking.
Empathy Skill #2: To be nonjudgmental
Empathy Skill #3: To understand another person’s feelings
Empathy Skill #4: To communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings
Empathy Skill #5: Mindfulness
Part Two: Living into Our Values
Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things. A value is a way of being or believing that we hold most important. Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values – we practice them. We are clear about what we believe and hold important and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts and behaviours align with those beliefs. There are three main steps to live into our values.
Step One: Dive into what’s most important to us. We can’t live into our values if we don’t know them.
Step Two: Show up in a way that’s aligned with your values.
Step Three: Stay aligned with your values, even when it’s difficult and uncomfortable. This requires lots of empathy and self-compassion.
Part Three: Braving Trust
Trust is choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions. Trust is the glue that holds teams and organizations together, but it’s often difficult to create. The BRAVING Inventory is a tool that can help if you practice the following elements:
Boundaries Reliability Accountability Integrity Nonjudgment Generosity
The foundation of trust lies within our ability to trust ourselves. You are in control of your relationship with self-trust and you can use the BRAVING Inventory to help.
Part Four: Learning to Rise
Often, leaders and executive coaches gather people together and try to teach resilience skills after there’s been a setback or failure. Teach these before. Leaders that are trained in rising skills as part of a courage-building program are more likely to engage in courageous behaviours because they know how to get back up. Teach falling and failing upfront. There are three steps that will help you learn to rise.
Step One: The Reckoning
The reckoning is knowing that we’re emotionally hooked and then getting curious about it. Risers are connected to their bodies, and when emotions kick, they feel it and pay attention. Take a few deep breaths, and become curious about why you’re feeling what you’re feeling.
Step Two: The Rumble
In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. Grab hold of the myths that you are making up and do what you can to learn the real story. Stories can crush our self-worth and our creativity. Own the story and you get to write the ending. Deny the story and it owns you.
Step Three: The Revolution
Choose to live and love with your whole heart. Choose courage over comfort.
You may also like to read:
- Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman
- Never Eat Alone by Keith Farrazzi
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
- Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman
- The Motivation Myth by Jonathan Manske & Mattison Grey
- Give and Take by Adam Grant
- This is Marketing by Seth Godin
- The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
- The Character Based Leader by Lead Change Group