Book Review: Dare to Lead

If you are not familiar with the author of Dare to Lead (Brene Brown) please take a few minutes and Google her TED talks. They are excellent and will help you as you lead your team. Brown’s research emphasis centers on the concept of vulnerability. In a sense, if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable (i.e. admitting that we don’t know everything and fessing up when we make mistakes) we open possibilities in our personal and professional lives that will lead to better outcomes and more fulfillment.

In this book, Brown couples the concept of vulnerability with leadership. One concept she discusses is “armored” leadership versus “daring” leadership. Basically armored leadership occurs to protect ourselves from uncomfortable emotions…and don’t limit your definition of emotions. Leaders will protect themselves from confrontation when they continually put off “that” conversation with a problem employee because it will make them feel angry/hurt/sad/defensive, etc.

Armored Leadership

Brown’s research identifies 16 examples of armored leadership and she couples those with examples of daring leadership. I will not run through all of them, but I will choose one as an illustration. Number 6 on her list of armored leadership traits is “Hiding Behind Cynicism”. An interesting point that she makes about cynicism and sarcasm is that they are often used as a “cheap” way to avoid contributing. It’s often easier to simply say “No one really cares anyway, they don’t want to change” versus having the discussion and attempting to understand why people may not want to change. Daring leaders do not show cynicism, rather they lead by modeling clarity, kindness and hope. As Andy Dufresne said in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, “…Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Getting messy and trying to understand the point of view of those around you and allowing them to understand your point of view is so important.

Living into your Values

I want to share one more important concept that I gleaned from this book. Leaders must be aware of their values…after all, that is what drives your decision-making process. If you have not taken the time to identify your top 3 values, please do so, it will help you immeasurably. Identifying your values is best paired with an exercise that helps you figure out how to live your values. Brown calls this, “living into your values.” There are three questions you should ask yourselves about each individual value:
What are the three behaviors that support this value
What are three slippery behaviors that are outside this value?
What’s an example of a time when you were fully living into this value?

I highly recommend this book.

About Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.
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