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Tl;dr Book Review — Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Tl;dr – ★★★★★

We’re sure you’ve heard of Brené Brown at this point — and if you haven’t, where have you been? It feels like her TED Talks and books are everywhere. She’s referenced in many of the other books we’ve read about equity, team culture, and change. That’s because she is the SME on vulnerability.

First, Brown makes us question the Six Myths of Vulnerability, one of the most prominent being Vulnerability is weakness. For some of you, vulnerability will initially conjure images of Bachelor contestants claiming to have “let walls down” — and doesn’t instantly make you think of radical leadership. Traditionally, it’s framed as a weakness.

But Brown spins this misconception — vulnerability is actually a display of courage & strength. “Vulnerability is the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Can you give me a single example of courage that you’ve witnessed or experienced in your own life that did not require experiencing vulnerability?”

Vulnerability isn’t possible without psychological safety. Like Brown’s work, you hear this term everywhere these days — it’s a hot topic, but ultimately difficult to implement where it isn’t already present.

Brené describes psychological safety as the atmosphere that “makes it possible to give tough feedback and have difficult conversations without the need to tiptoe around the truth”. The presence of this type of safety makes sure your team understands they have the space to trust & be vulnerable, which leads to another major theme in Dare to Lead — rumbling.

Rumbling with vulnerability is the act of “leaning into rather than walking away from the situation that makes us feel uncertain, at risk, or emotionally exposed”. Speaking from experience, psychological safety makes collaboration, feedback, innovation, and pivoting so much easier. And speaking up for introverts, it also makes sure that everyone on your team truly has a seat at the table.

One of the most valuable concepts in Dare to Lead for us was living into our values. There’s a quick exercise developed by Brown that helps you determine your top two values — and let me tell you, doing that exercise made a lot of our decision-making habits much clearer to us both on personal and professional levels.

Value work is important because it allows us to walk our talk; naming and understanding them allows us to be “clear about what we believe and hold important” both internally and externally with those we lead, and helps us to “take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align” with our beliefs.

We’re sure you all have examples of leaders who preach values in one place and then take action in ways that are totally contradictory. After understanding and naming our values, it’s our job to commit to living in them.

The last concept we’ll touch on is one we use almost every day — Sh*tty First Drafts (SFDs). These are the stories we make up when we lack details or information, and they should not be trusted.

SFDs are stories based on limited real data and plentiful imagined data, blended into a coherent (and emotionally satisfying) version of reality. They’re conspiracy theories. And here we go, circling back to psychological safety. As leaders, we have to create space where everyone feels empowered to reality check their SFDs.

Dare to Lead is an integral part of professional development, especially for those looking to be more just, empathic leaders. Read our full Tl;dr recap below!

Part 1 – Rumbling with vulnerability

Section 1 – The moment and the myths

The Square Squad
6 Myths of Vulnerability
    Psychological safety
    Rumble with vulnerability

    Section 2 – The call to courage

    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 behavior.

    Section 3 — The armory

    Section 4 — Shame & empathy

    Shame 101
    1. We all have it
    2. We’re all afraid to talk about it
    3. The less we talk about it, the more control it has

    Where shame exists, empathy is almost always absent — so shame is not a compass for moral behavior.

    Shame resilience 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 Skills
    1. To see the world as other see it, or perspective taking — honor people’s perspectives as truth even when they’re different from ours (instead of the default my truth is the truth)
    2. To be nonjudgemental
    3. To understand another person’s feelings
    4. To communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings

    Section 5 — Curiosity and grounded confidence

    Grounded confidence is the messy process of learning and unlearning, practicing and failing, and surviving a few misses.

    Rumble starters & questions
    Part 2 — Living into our values

    Daring leaders who lives into their values are never silent about hard things.

    In the arena:

    Step 1 — We can’t live into Values that we can’t name

    Step 2 — Taking values from BS to behavior

    Step 3 — Empathy and self-compassion: the two most important seat in the arena

    Part 3 — Braving trust
    The BRAVING inventory:
    Part 4 — Learning to rise

    When we have the courage to walk into our story and own it, we get to write the ending.

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