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Learning to Lead with Brené Brown, IRL

How often do you start your day singing in a foreign language with 50 strangers?

I usually don’t either but that’s what I found myself doing on the first morning of Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead™ Facilitator Training program. The exercise was simple but not easy, and carried with it an obvious underlying message: if you’re willing to be seen, heard, and vulnerable, you create the space for others to do the same. So in that barely-caffeinated moment I had to decide: will I choose courage or will I choose comfort?

This question lies at the foundation of Brené’s work which is centered on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, and most recently includes courageous leadership. After decades of work, Brené found that courage is a collection of four skill sets that are teachable, measurable and observable. These skill sets are taught through the Dare to Lead™ program, and there are now hundreds of certified Dare to Lead™ facilitators throughout the world - yours truly being one of them.

In corporate speak, the two-and-a-half day training program is an empirically based courage-building curriculum designed to be facilitated by organizational development professionals. In human speak, it’s serious life work crammed into an abbreviated whirlwind of deep thinking, big feelings, dynamic dialogue and significant learnings from Brene’s research and experiences.

Since completing the program, a lot of people have asked me about my biggest take away, and it’s this: sometimes in our effort to make others feel like they’re not alone, we end up cannibalizing their experience. In our well-intended effort to create genuine connection, we can accidentally overwrite someone else’s story with our own. We can make it about us and invalidate the other in moments of real vulnerability, despite our very best intentions. On the other side of that coin, we can end up getting stuck in someone else’s story instead of helping them get unstuck themselves. More on these tendencies here.

These are good reminders that when we know better, we can do better, which applies to both our personal and professional lives. When we know better and do better, we can also lead better, no matter where we sit in an organization. Leadership is about courage and the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean in - not about titles or the corner office. Below are a few big ideas on courage that emerged from Brene’s research:

Want to learn more about courageous leadership? Take the Daring Leadership Assessment to help gauge your strengths and your opportunities for growth as a daring leader. And next time you find yourself in a challenging situation, simply ask: will I choose courage or will I choose comfort?

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