Book Review: “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

This book review is on “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown and published by Penguin-Random House (2018). Brene Brown is one of my favorite authors on leadership. She is a social worker and researcher at the University of Houston.

Her TED Talks on Vulnerability is amazing. Her recent work “Dare to Lead” is one of my top favorite leadership books of 2018. She explains why true leadership is about vulnerability and connection-not power and strength.

Brown describes the four skills needed to become a courageous leader. These skill sets are 100% teachable, observable and measurable.The first and most important skill is Rumbling with Vulnerability. Brown had assumed that the biggest barrier to courageous leadership would be fear, but her research indicated that fear is not a barrier. In fact, leaders she interviewed admitted to being fearful much of the time. The real barrier is how people armor themselves to deal with the fear. It is critical to understand that we all self-protect when we feel scared, defensive, or vulnerable.

A great tool to use when Rumbling with Vulnerability is curiosity. “When I find myself in a tough situation or I’m about to receive some hard feedback, instead of getting my armor up, I stay open and ask questions, so I can get specific information,” Brown explains. In the book she identifies 16 different ways we armor ourselves and offers ways to move that armor out of the way to become a daring, courageous leader.

The second skill is Living into Your Values. Leaders constantly must do tough things, give hard feedback, put bold ideas into motion while being unsure of the outcome, and take many risks. Courageous leaders are able to do this consistently because they operate with a clear set of values and behaviors that line up with those values. “It is important to have values as a leader, but it is critical to operationalize them. Otherwise they are just vague concepts, not guiding principles,” Brown explains.

The third skill, Braving Trust, can be tricky because many leaders don’t know how to talk about trust. Direct reports have to trust their leaders in order to have honest conversations and both parties have to be in an unarmored position. It’s no secret that the highest performing teams are built on a foundation of trust. And building trust is a skill that can be taught and learned.

The fourth skill is Learning to Rise and deals with the ability to re-set after an error or mistake. The ability to be resilient helps leaders learn from mistakes quickly, share those learnings, and continue to move forward in a positive way. And, yes, it is a skill that every leader can learn.

“Courage is a skill set we can teach, measure, and observe, but we are choosing not to because it is an investment of energy and time and it takes muscle building. But why are we choosing not to do it? If we need braver leaders, but we’re not investing in skilling them up, what is getting in the way?” asked Brown.

“Dare to Lead” is the ultimate playbook that offers practical skill-building tools for creating brave leaders in your organization. You will not be disappointed.  (Chad Gordon-BleacherLeaderChat)

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org