• Lars Christensen

Dare to lead by Brené Brown


I finished this book in May 2022. I recommend this book 10/10.

This is a great book about how leadership revolves around risk, courage, and vulnerability. Brené Brown shares excellent insights on how to navigate, stay sane, and become a strong leader. Simply, I recommend that every people manager reads this book.

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • The third thing I learned has turned into a mandate by which I live: If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I'm not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their lives but who will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgment at those who dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you're criticizing from a place where you're not also putting yourself on the line, I'm not interested in what you have to say.

  • "Vulnerability is the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure."

  • It's very hard to have ideas. It's very hard to put yourself out there, it's very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers, and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.

  • I took a deep breath and leaned into the mother of all rumble tools—curiosity. "Tell me more about how this plays out for y'all. I want to understand."

  • After listening, I thanked them for their courage and honesty and promised again that I would think about it. I asked if we could circle back the next day. 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. I've never regretted taking a short break or circling back after a few hours of thinking time.

  • When we're in fear, or an emotion is driving self-protection, there's a fairly predictable pattern of how we assemble our armor, piece by piece:

  • I'm not enough.

  • If I'm honest with them about what's happening, they'll think less of me or maybe even use it against me.

  • No way am I going to be honest about this. No one else does it. Why do I have to put myself out there?

  • Yeah. Screw them. I don't see them being honest about what scares them. And they've got plenty of issues. It's actually their issues and shortcomings that make me act this way. This is their fault, and they're trying to blame me. In fact, now that I think about it, I'm actually better than them.

  • This practice controls for the "Halo effect" created when everyone sees what the person with the most influence in the room wants and follows suit. It also controls for the "bandwagon effect"—that very human instinct to follow suit even when you disagree. It's tough to be the last to share when everyone is on board and getting increasingly excited about an idea. We call it Turn & Learn because it's not about being right or wrong; it's about creating space to understand different perspectives, learning from everyone around the table, and identifying areas where we need to get clear on expectations.

  • And when they start talking (which they normally will), listen. Really listen. Don't formulate your response while they're talking. If you have a great insight—hold it. Don't do that thing where the listener starts nodding faster and faster, not because they're actively listening but because they're trying to unconsciously signal the talker to wrap up so they can talk, Keep a lot of space in the conversation.

  • Another thing: When we're in tough rumbles with people, we can't take responsibility for their emotions. They're allowed to be pissed or sad or surprised or elated. But if their behaviors are not okay, we set the boundaries:

  • I know this is a tough conversation. Being angry is okay. Yelling is not okay.

  • I know we're tired and stressed. This has been a long meeting. Being frustrated is okay. Interrupting people and rolling your eyes is not okay.

  • I appreciate the passion around these different opinions and ideas. The emotion is okay. Passive-aggressive comments and put-downs are not okay.

  • Just remember, we can't do our jobs when we own other people's emotions or take responsibility for them as a way to control the related behaviors for one simple reason: Other people's emotions are not our jobs. We can't both serve people and try to control their feelings. Daring leadership is ultimately about serving other people, not ourselves. That's why we choose courage.

  • Daring Leadership is:

  • Modeling and encouraging healthy striving, empathy, and self-compassion.

  • Practice gratitude and celebrating milestones and victories.

  • Setting boundaries and finding real comfort.

  • Practicing integration—Strong back, soft front, wild heart.

  • Being a learner and getting it right.

  • Modeling clarity, kindness, and hope.

  • Making contributions and taking risks.

  • Using power with, power to, and power within.

  • Knowing your value.

  • Cultivating commitment and shared purpose.

  • Acknowledging, naming, and normalizing collective fear and uncertainty.

  • Modeling and supporting rest, play, and recovery.

  • Cultivating a culture of belonging, inclusivity, and diverse perspective.

  • Giving Gold stars.

  • Talking straight and taking action.

  • Leading from the heart.

  • Shame 101:

  • We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don't experience shame are those who lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. Here's your choice: 'fess up to experiencing shame or admit that you're a sociopath. Quick note: This is only time that shame seems like a good option.

  • We're all afraid to talk about shame. Just the word is uncomfortable.

  • The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.

  • Give people a "way out with dignity."

  • It's important to understand that if we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive. Self-compassion is also critically important, but because shame is a social concept—it happens between people—it also heals best between people. A social wound needs a social balm, and empathy is that balm.

  • Empathy Skill:

  • To see the world as others see it or perspective-taking

  • To be nonjudgemental

  • To understand another person's feelings

  • To communicate your understanding of that person's feelings

  • Mindfulness

  • If I share something with you that's difficult for me, I'd rather you say, "I don't even know what to say right now; I'm just so glad you told me." Because, in truth, a response can rarely make something better. Connection is what heals.

  • We cannot practice empathy if we need to be knowers; if we can't be learners, we cannot be empathic.

  • To review, empathy is first: I take the perspective of another person, meaning I become the listener and the student, not the knower. Second: I stay out of judgment. And third and fourth: I try to understand what emotion they're articulating and communicate my understanding of that emotion.

  • Definition of self-kindness is contained and self-explanatory: "being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. "In my own life, this translate to one simple mandate: Talk to yourself the way you'd talk to someone you love. Most of us shame, belittle, and criticize ourselves in ways we'd never think of doing to others. I would never tell my kids, "God, you're so stupid!" Yet I can whisper that to myself in a heartbeat.

  • The big takeaway from this section is that empathy is at the heart of connection–it is the circuit board for leaning into the feelings of others, reflecting back a shared experience of the world, and reminding them that they are not alone. To be able to stand in discomfort with people who are processing shame, or hurt, or disappointment, or hardship and to be able to say to them, "I see you, and I can hold space for this," is the epitome of courage. The best part is that empathy is not hardwired into our genetic code: We can learn it, And we need to, because as the poet June Jordan wrote, "we are the ones we have been waiting for."

  • Here are some specific rumble starters:

  • The story I make up...(This is by far one of the most powerful rumble tools in the free world. It's changed every facet of my life.)

  • I'm curious about...

  • Tell me more.

  • That's not my experience, instead of "You are wrong about her, him, them, it, this...").

  • I'm wondering...

  • Help me understand...

  • I simply said, "We're in very different places. Why don't we spend twenty minutes rumbling on how we got here, then circle back tomorrow and land on an approach?

  • Value #1 = Growth.

  • What are three behaviors that support your value?

  • Reading every morning

  • Plan the day

  • Reflect every night

  • What are three slippery behaviors that are outside your value?

  • Getting sucked into social media

  • Bad self-talk

  • Worrying about a broken Ego

  • What's an example of time when you are fully living into this value?

  • My strong morning routine

  • Value #1 = Openness.

  • What are three behaviors that support your value?

  • Thoughtful about listening with empathy

  • Ask more questions

  • Put yourself out there without any fear of damaging my Ego

  • What are three slippery behaviors that are outside your value?

  • Being afraid that I'm not good enough

  • Talk to push your thoughts out instead of listening

  • Don't give the other person space

  • What is an example of time when you are fully living into this value?

  • When I start by sharing my weakness

  • "This is great, but, um, how do we talk about race?" My response: "You first listen about race. You will make a lot of mistakes. It will be super uncomfortable. And there's no way to talk about it without getting some criticism. But you can't be silent." To opt-out of conversations about privilege and oppression because they make you uncomfortable is the epitome of privilege.

  • "Here's what I'm seeing: here's what I'm making up about what I see. I have a lot of questions. Can you help me understand?" Then dig in, take notes, and ask questions, followed by: "I need some time to think about this. Can we circle back tomorrow? I'll come to you if more questions come up, and if you have questions, please come to me."

  • Sometimes there's a crisis, and sometimes there is a work product of a deliverable that has a tight timeline and is not coming along according to expectations. In those moments, it doesn't always feel authentic to sit down and say. "Hey, thanks for your time. Here are three things you can do well" when you're dying to cut to the chase with "This is not right, and it's due at five o'clock." But the latter doesn't' serve. I think back to Ken Blanchard's wisdom and how catching people doing things right is so much more powerful than just angrily listing the mistakes. It takes two minutes to say, "I know this is due at five o'clock, and the executive summary looks pitch-perfect. The tables need some serious work, though. What does support look like?

  • I know I'm ready to give feedback when I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.

  • When I asked him if he believed that people are doing the best they can with what they have, he said, "I don't think you can ever know for certain. But I do know that my life is better when I work from the assumption that everyone is doing the best they can."

  • One officer pushed me a little on "the accuracy of the intel" and kept asking, "You are 100 percent certain that this person is doing the best he can?" After I answered yes two or three times, the office took a deep breath and said, "Then move the rock." I was confused. "What do you mean by "move the rock'?" He shook his head. "I have to stop kicking the rock. I need to move it. It's hurting both of us. He's not the right person for this position, and there's no amount of pushing or getting on him that's going to change that. He needs to be reassigned to a position where he can be a contribution."

  • The braving inventory:

  • Boundaries—You respect my boundaries, and when you're not clear about what's okay and not okay, you ask. You're willing to say no.

  • Reliability—You do what you say you'll do. At work, this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations, so you don't overpromise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.

  • Accountability—You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.

  • Vault—You don't share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you're not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.

  • Integrity: You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.

  • Nonjudgement— I can ask for what you need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment. We can ask each other for help without judgment.

  • Generosity—You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

  • They talked about taking deep breaths before responding to questions or asking them; slowing down the pace of a frantic conversation by modeling slow speech, breathing, and fat finding; and even intentionally taking a few breaths before asking themselves a version of these two questions:

  • Do I have enough information to freak out about this situation?

  • If I do have enough data, will freaking out help?

  • To move from what Atwood calls "a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood" to a true story that you can address, these are the questions that risers need to rumble with:

  • What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation?

  • What do I know objectively?

  • What assumption am I making?

  • What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?

  • What additional information do I need?

  • What questions or clarifications might help?

  • What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?

  • What's underneath my response?

  • What am I really feeling?

  • What part did I play?

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