Leadership Library Review — Dare to Lead: Daring Greatly and Rising Strong at Work

February 2019

Dare to Lead: Daring Greatly and Rising Strong at Work by Brene Brown (Random House, 2018)

What are the big take-aways?

Brown’s Dare to Lead builds on her extraordinary professional expertise studying vulnerability, shame, courage and empathy in order to conduct research – including 150 global C-suite leaders and collections of data from her various business projects – on what it takes to be a “daring leader.”  In a two-page spread (pp. 76-77) Brown identifies sixteen characteristics of Armored Leadership versus Daring Leadership (e.g., the first one listed: “Driving perfectionism and fostering fear of failure” versus “Modeling and encouraging healthy striving, empathy and self-compassion”).

Why do I like it?

I like the book’s focus on how a “daring leader” must have the courage to be vulnerable and take risks (especially in the areas of communication, integrity and accountability); to create conditions that foster the growth of other leaders; and to develop the spaciousness to listen for and act upon one’s own wisdom.  On page 271, Brown writes:

If you asked me to boil down everything I’ve learned from this research, I would tell you these three things:

  1. The level of collective courage in an organization is the absolute best predictor of that organization’s ability to be successful in terms of its culture, to develop leaders, and to meet its mission.
  2. The greatest challenge in developing brave leaders is helping them acknowledge and answer their personal call to courage. […]
  3. We fail the minute we let someone else define success for us. […]

One of my interpretations of what Brown discovers is that a certain minimum degree of capacity for complexity (known in adult development theory by terms such as self-authoring or self-determining) in leaders is necessary for organizations to thrive amidst the crushing pace of change that prevails in today’s global dynamics.

In what situations would this be useful?

The heart of Dare to Lead is also the largest part of the book, entitled “Rumbling with Vulnerability.”  This section has segment headings like “The Call to Courage,” “Shame and Empathy,” and “Curiosity and Grounded Confidence.”  If any of the key words in those headings tickles, frightens, disgusts, intrigues or triggers you, then I suspect this book would be a useful companion on your leadership journey!

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

The book I happened to review last month, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, would be a nice pairing in the sense that – to my mind – Brown’s 16 traits of “daring leaders” resonate with the 15 commitments.  They also echo the definitions of creative competencies and reactive tendencies in Bob Anderson’s Mastering Leadership, which is the case he makes for the Leadership Circle Profile (a 360-degree assessment of which Anderson is an architect).  The Leadership Circle Profile intentionally incorporates Robert Kegan’s adult development theory as described in this white paper, also by Anderson.

Note: In my opinion, if you read Dare to Lead, you can skip two of Brene Brown’s previous volumes, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong.  A powerful discussion of another of Brown’s books that has provocative implications for leadership, Braving the Wilderness, unfolds in this interview of Brown by Krista Tippett for “On Being.”

Return to Leadership Library

This entry was posted in Leadership Library. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s