Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts

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Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts

By Brené Brown



Brené Brown came to fame with her YouTube presentation on vulnerability.  In this book she shares that story and how this book came to be.  Her early work was in organization development and leadership.  Then she became famous for her work on vulnerability, shame, and courage.  She wondered and worried that those messages would not be accepted by hard charging leaders … but she found that they were.  So, this book combines her early work on leadership and organizations with her work on shame and courage and vulnerability.

Daring to Lead, Brown says, has four elements each of which take courage:

    • Rumbling with Vulnerability
    • Living into our Values
    • Braving Trust
    • Learning to rise

Rumbling …

Brown defines rumbling as entering into tough conversations while remaining curious and vulnerable.  Seeking first to understand.  Listening.  Sharing (gently but honestly) our truth. Avoiding defensiveness (armoring up, she calls it).

Living into our Values

She challenges us to focus, really focus , on no more than two values.  Define them.  Describe what they look like.  Do this individually and with your organization.  Review them.  Honor them.  Live them.  Invite feedback.  Seek feedback.  Use feedback.

Braving Trust

We earn trust.  Trust can’t be demanded.  We must model it in small moments where we are honest, open, vulnerable.  Over time we win larger amounts of trust.

Learning to Rise

When we chose courage and dare to lead, we do so by entering the arena.  We stumble, and fall, and fail.  That is where true learning occurs.  There we learn to rise and reenter the arena.

Courage, she says, can be learned.

Brown does grounded theory research.  She interviews 1000s of leaders, listens, unpacks and asks deeper questions.  Half of the leaders she interviewed thought of courage as a trait rather than a skill.  So, she set out to find the skills that contribute to courage.  She acts on the principle that “what stands in the way becomes the way.” 

As a result, this book is chock full of stories and protocols for growing skills for daring to lead with courage.

She also provides insights on equity – one of those areas that are so important to our schools today.  Brown says, “People are opting out of diversity and inclusivity because they fear looking wrong.”

Brown encourages us to be daring leaders who “care for and are connected to the people we lead.”  Here are just a few of her quotes challenging us to move equity forward:

  • Cultivate a culture in which brave work, tough conversations, and whole hearts are the expectation;

  • Create a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.

  • Create a space in our schools and classrooms where all students can walk in and, for that day or hour, take off the crushing weight of their armor, hang it on a rack.

  • They deserve one place where they can rumble with vulnerability and their hearts can exhale.

  • Never underestimate the benefit to a child of having a place to belong.  It can change the trajectory of their life.

When we get moving, we bring others along.  “Courage,” she says, “is contagious”

My hope …

is that, eventually, someone like Brené Brown will use those grounded research skills to unpack the issue of equity; turning barriers into skills.

Daring to Lead can be a great start toward equity

Applying these skills should go a long ways toward increasing equity and reducing bias.  Brené Brown encourages us to:

  • Enter the arena with courage

  • Be open and vulnerable to new learning

  • Value – and live – our determination toward equity

  • Earn trust inch by inch as we seek and act on feedback

  • Know that we will stumble and fall but rise again to do better

Lots more tools and resources at the Dare to Lead Hub: https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/


  • Reviewed by Larry Nyland.
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Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

To talk about growing extraordinary "high capacity" leadership for your team …
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