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About the guest

Brené Brown

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work. She also holds the position of visiting professor in management at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.

Brené has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She is the author of six #1 New York Times bestsellers and is the host of two award-winning podcasts, Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead.

Brené’s books have been translated into more than 30 languages, and her titles include Atlas of the HeartDare to Lead, Braving the Wilderness, Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection. With Tarana Burke, she co-edited the bestselling anthology You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience.

Brené’s TED talk on the Power of Vulnerability is one of the top five most-viewed TED talks in the world, with over 60 million views. Brené is the first researcher to have a filmed lecture on Netflix, and in March 2022, she launched a new show on HBO Max that focuses on her latest book, Atlas of the Heart.

Brené spends most of her time working in organizations around the world, helping develop braver leaders and more courageous cultures.

She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, Steve. They have two children, Ellen and Charlie, and a weird Bichon named Lucy.

Show notes

Dare to Lead _ Brené Brown MSW

Dare to Lead, by Brené Brown

The ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures. Daring leadership is a collection of four skill sets that are 100% teachable. It’s learning and practice that requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with our whole hearts.


Brené Brown: Hi, everyone. I’m Brené Brown, and welcome to the very first episode of the Dare to Lead podcast. I am so grateful to have you with me. This is dream come true territory for me, and could it get any better? If you’re thinking, “Hey, what’s that snappy little ditty that I’m listening to? I like this music.” Wait until you hear at the end of the podcast, this is music by the Houston band The Suffers, and the song is called Take Me to the Good Times, and I need you to go buy it, download it, and dance in your kitchen with your socks on, and I just… To The Suffers, my Houston neighbors, thank you so much for letting us use this in the Dare to Lead podcast because this is the vibe for this podcast, like this is it.

BB: So grateful for that, and I’m just excited that you’re here. For this first episode, I thought I would share with you what I’ve learned about courageous leadership. We’re in our 10th year of a study on leadership. I thought I’d share what’s working as I try to put these learnings into practice, where I’m struggling, and what we need to learn more about. So I’m going to start with my “why” around leadership, a little nod to my friend Simon Sinek, who will be on this podcast, and we’ll talk to him about his work.

BB: So for me, my “why” for studying leadership is pretty straight forward, I wanted to be… and I still want to be, a better leader. Over the past decade, I have made this, I will tell you, super weird transition from being a research professor to being a research professor and a founder and CEO of an organization, and I can tell you right now, the first very difficult, very hard, humbling lesson that I have learned is studying leadership is way easier than leading.

BB: So I have become a leader. I find it to be one of the greatest challenges of my life, and during those same 10 years, these past 10 years where I’ve been coming into this new role, I was also spending 90% of my time in organizations working with leaders, and y’all know me when I’m in an organization, talking to people, I cannot turn off my inner pattern hunter. That qualitative researcher in me that just sees patterns and repeats of things over and over, regardless of how different organizations are. And I started to see so many patterns and themes around leadership, leaders who were effective, leadership that was ineffective, leaders that had huge impact and had cultures of deep caring and connection, leaders who were abusive. I just saw it all and I saw patterns. I just could not walk away.

BB: It’s funny that I just interviewed Guy Raz about his book and his podcast, How I Built This, and I interviewed him for this podcast series, and he talks about how good ideas are really hard to find and even harder to walk away from once you find them. So I’d like to believe that the leadership research and book, the Dare To Lead book, were good ideas that I found it impossible to walk away from. And I think that’s true, because when I think about my personal experiences as a leader over the past few years, I can honestly say to you, that the only endeavors that have required the same level of self-awareness, of emotional literacy, difficult rumbles, hard conversations, really the only things in my life that are on par with that are being married for close to 30 years and parenting.

BB: And I never expected that because being married for 30 days is tough. 30 years, boy, that’s the long haul. And there are great seasons and there are shitty seasons, parenting is just… It’s just vulnerability from the moment you even consider the idea, I guess, until the day you die, and so I have been so taken aback how leadership has joined the ranks of that difficult work and equally rewarding… Maybe not equally rewarding, to be honest with you, because when it comes down to it, Steve, Ellen, and Charlie are my heart.

BB: But I have to say my heart is big enough to hold all the people that I lead and that I work with as well, so it’s been a really serious challenge. And I guess I underestimated the pull on my emotional bandwidth, the sheer determination it takes to stay calm when I’m losing my mind, the weight and heaviness of problem-solving and decision-making and strategy, sleepless nights, I don’t think I understood the load of great leaders, and I don’t think I really understood the payoff of really courageous empathetic leadership. Both have kind of blown me away.

BB: So I think you can probably file my leadership quest under both, “Rabid researcher can’t turn away” and the adage “Research and write what you need to read.” And I will say also another goal for this work for me is I want to live in a world with braver, bolder leaders, and I want to be able to pass that kind of world on to my children. And right now, as I’m recording this, we are in the middle of COVID, we’re in a pandemic, we are in a long time, long overdue fight for racial and social justice, the economy is just wrecked, I guess is the right word. And it’s interesting because you know what I’m seeing in the midst of this? I’m seeing the best of leaders and I’m seeing the worst, absolutely, just awful, awful fear-based divisive leadership.

BB: Which is what you see in a crisis, you see the best of people and you see the worst of people, and leadership is no different. So let’s start with this, let’s start with my definition of what a leader is, because here’s the thing, I have spent many, many, many, maybe hundreds of hours in the fancy C-Suites, in with the CEOs and the CFOs and the CMOs and the CHOs, and I’ve been there and I have struggled to find a single leader in that environment, and I have been on warehouse and factory floors, and I have been surrounded by direct line people, and every single one of them was a leader.

BB: So for me, a title leader, or the description leader, has nothing to do with corner offices and shoulder pads and pen stripes and money, and it has nothing to do with that. I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.

BB: Before we dig into the content, I will say that maybe it won’t surprise you, but it surprises me that I sincerely believe that one day when I look back on my career, I think the Dare To Lead research might be the work that I consider the most important of my career. Maybe, and we’ll get to this in a minute, maybe one of the big reasons for that is really discovering that courage is not just a gauzy, aspirational, “I wish I could be” thing, but courage is a collection of four skill sets that are teachable, observable, and measurable.

BB: So I think I may not personally ever get over that, just because courage is one of my two values, and understanding the skill building and the muscle building that I needed to do, to not just have that as an aspirational value, but a lived value, has changed everything in my life. I think the other reason is this was the first time in my 20-year research career where I asked a primary research question and every single one of the participants gave me the same answer.

BB: It blew my mind because the people we talked to represented every continent, every industry, they were diverse in age, race, gender, experience, from creatives at Pixar, to leaders in the U.S. Special Forces, to NGOs in Asia and Africa, to educational leaders around the world. We went far and wide to find the sample of transformational leaders. So the formal question was… and this is the formal question when you’re alone in your office and you’re coming up with this very sophisticated, 45 comma clauses questions.

BB: So it started like this, “What if anything about the way people are leading today needs to change in order for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly changing environment where we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation?” So as I conducted these interviews, that question, in all of it’s long ass grammar-heavy way, that question was played back to me by the leaders we interviewed in a lot of interesting ways, including, “So you’re asking what’s the future of leadership?” Or, “Are you asking me who’s going to be leading for impact in five years? Who’s still going to be standing and who’s not going to be standing?” So it was interesting to see that really simplified, the cut to the chase version. So what’s the answer? Who’s going to be standing in five years? Who’s not going to be standing in five years? Who’s going to be leading for impact? Who won’t be? And with these seemingly intractable challenges and this insatiable demand for innovation, what’s it going to take?

BB: Again, first time in my career across every single interview, the answer was courage, and I expected to be sorting data that ranged from AI and machine learning to increase in market cap and scalable… Stuff I’d have to Google, but it wasn’t. It was courage. The future of leadership is braver leaders and more courageous cultures. So when I followed up to understand the specific call for braver leadership and what did leadership mean, this is where things got really dicey.

BB: So when I asked people like, “What is the Why? What’s your why behind the call for braver leadership?” There wasn’t just one answer, there were 50 answers, and many of them were not intuitively connected to courage. Leaders did talk about everything from critical thinking and the ability to synthesize and analyze information, building trust, re-thinking, big systems, educational systems, banking systems, inspiring innovation, finding common political ground amid the growing polarization, decision-making, especially tough decision-making, the importance of empathy, relationship building.

BB: The importance of empathy, especially in machine learning and artificial intelligence environments, which I knew AI and machine learning would make it in there somewhere, right. But as we kept peeling back the answers and we would say, “Okay. We kind of understand why people need to be braver, can you talk to me specifically about the skills they’re going to need? What are the observable measurable skills that you’re talking about?” And man, did these research participants, brilliant, again, transformative leaders really struggling to answer this question. Right under half of the leaders that we interviewed really talked about courage as a personality trait. They were like, “You’re brave, or you’re not.”

BB: And I’ve studied human behavior and thinking and emotion long enough to know that, “You’ve either got it or you don’t,” is not true. 99.9% of the time when you’re talking about anything outside of biological description, like maybe you’ve either got brown eyes or you don’t, I don’t know, but I’m like, “I got enough flags for a parade when people say that.” So when we would push in and stay curious, and we’d push for observable behaviors, and we’d ask questions like, “Well, what does it look like if you have it?” And 80-90% of the leaders we interviewed, including those who believe that courage was behavioral, but they still couldn’t describe the specific skills.

BB: However, when you ask them the opposite question, which is like a big hack, is that we are very limited in words for what is, and we’ve got a ton of words for what isn’t, and that goes all the way back 20-something years to when I was talking to people about love, or vulnerability, or wholeheartedness. What does it mean to feel worthy? “Well, I don’t know.” What does it mean to not feel worthy? “Oh. I can tell you for sure.”

BB: What does love mean? “I don’t know, but I can tell you about betrayal.” We just have a lot more words for what isn’t. Which actually interestingly, if this was a book that you were reading instead of a podcast you were listening to you, I’d do a little great call out box in the margin here, that interestingly, really correlates to the fact that we have so much more information on hard emotions than on the positive emotions. We just have this tendency to dig in to what bothers us.

BB: So I asked, “What does it look like when you don’t have brave leadership? What is the ramification of a culture that is fearful, not courageous?” Ooh, but then, Katy bar the door. You could not get them to stop talking. While they couldn’t tell you what skills they needed or what brave leadership looked like and what skills were associated with it, they could definitely tell you what happened in the absence of it. So let’s start with the first one, because it’s the biggest one… There’s a second, but not a close second. Number one, in the absence of brave leadership, we avoid tough conversations, we avoid giving honest, productive feedback, we just absolutely tap out.

BB: And culturally, the result of the tough conversation tap out is nice culture. And here’s the thing, I’ve been in hundreds of organizations, and every one of them, when I get into the organization, a leader will lean in toward me and say, “We’ve got a nice problem.” Like they’re the only ones, like… There are some, obviously, some cultures that have… Do not have a nice problem, but so many do, and what they don’t understand is, a nice problem is actually a fear problem, and fear doesn’t cause people to be nice, fear causes people to talk about people instead of talking to them, which is not nice.

BB: So number one consequence of a lack of brave leadership and courageous culture is we tap out of the hard conversations that we need. Number two, rather than spending a reasonable amount of time kind of acknowledging and addressing fears and feelings that show up during change and upheaval and pandemics, rather than spending a reasonable amount of time addressing those, we don’t address them, and therefore spend an unreasonable amount of time managing problematic behaviors. Diminishing trust caused by a lack of connection and empathy was a big issue, not enough people taking smart risks or creating or sharing bold ideas to meet the challenges.

BB: When people are afraid of being put down or ridiculed for trying something and failing, or even putting forward a radical new idea, the best you can hope for is kind of status quo. In our organization, we actually onboard people for failure, because what we like to say is, you can’t work here and only do what you’re already good at doing, because we can’t afford to keep you. If all you’re doing is what you already know how to do and you’re not pushing and failing and iterating and learning, this is not a good investment for us.

BB: This is a big one. Without brave leadership and courageous cultures, we get stuck and defined by setback, disappointment and failure, so instead of spending our time cleaning up the failures and setbacks and disappointments to make sure our consumers and our stakeholders are satisfied, made whole, we’re spending way too much time and energy helping people get back up off the ground. Our motto is everybody has got to be responsible for their own bounce. We will provide a culture that is bounce positive, we’ll give you the skill set for bouncing, but you’ve got to be responsible for doing it on your own, because we cannot both spend our time and energy picking you up and dusting you off and telling you it’s going to be okay and fix the problem that put us on the ground to begin with. Other issues, too much shame and blame.

BB: People are opting out of very difficult conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion, because they’re afraid of being wrong, looking wrong, saying something wrong, which… That’s going to happen every time you engage in one of those conversations. If you’re lucky, you’ll have your ass handed to you with some learning. But that’s going to happen every time you have one of those conversations.

BB: I’ve taught Race and Gender for over 20 years. I’ve never had a conversation about race and gender where I didn’t learn something new about myself, including my blind spots. But to say, “Look, I’m not going to do it because I can’t look perfect and I can’t be right, and I can’t be comfortable…” That would be the textbook definition of privilege. Also other issues, organizational values are too gauzy, they’re not operationalized into behaviors, perfectionism and fear keep people from learning and growing.

BB: I think when you listen to this list of what we face in the absence of daring leadership, we see ourselves. I see me, look, I’m an emotions researcher, who happens to also be a leader, and I do not like spending a lot of time attending to fears and feelings, and we see ourselves in here, we see our culture, we see our organizations in here, and we’ve got to change that if we want to still be standing and leading; moving in to what’s coming next.

BB: And if you recognize yourself or your organization or your team in this… Just know you’re not alone. I still recognize myself in it, this is a leadership podcast, and these may be work behaviors and organizational cultural concerns, but what underlies everything I’m talking about here, these are just deeply human issues, and so for us as researchers, after finding these roadblocks and hearing this, our job was to identify the specific courage building skill sets that people needed to address all these problems. We conducted more interviews, we developed instruments, we tested the instruments with huge shoutout to the EMBA students enrolled and the faculty who helped us at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice, at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, the Wharton School at UPenn.

BB: We just started digging in, we started building instruments to test courage building, and we worked until we found the answer, we tested it, we improved it. We tested it again. And so here’s the heart of daring leadership, and if you’ve got Dare to Lead the book, just know that this is different because something else has changed since I wrote this book. We have taken since that book came out, the Dare to Lead book, we have taken over 30,000 people on every continent in the world through our Dare to Lead work, our Dare to Lead training work.

BB: And we have collected data on every single one of those experiences going through the work, and we have followed up and we have collected more data. And so I’m going to say the heart of daring leadership are these things: one, here’s what we learned, you cannot get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability, we have to embrace the suck. If vulnerability wasn’t the only path to courage and I wasn’t sitting on top of 400,000 pieces of data that confirmed that, I would opt out of vulnerability every day. I hate it, hate it. Fifth generation Texan. Hate it. Cringy and awkward, uncomfortable, punch first ask questions later; that is not my MO, but we can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability, and that is at the heart of daring leadership.

BB: This deeply human truth that’s rarely acknowledged, especially at work. Courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. Most of us feel brave and afraid all day long at the exact same time, and during those really tough moments when we’re pulled between our fear and our call to courage, we need shared language, we need tools, we need skills, we need daily practices that can support us through these difficult rumbles. And look, the word ‘rumble,’ if you’re my age and you hear the word ‘rumble,’ the first thing you think of is like West Side Story, but we use the word ‘rumble’ because it was the best word I could think of to capture a conversation, a discussion, a meeting that’s defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break if we have to, to circle back when it’s necessary, to be fearless, to own our parts.

BB: And as my friend Harriet Lerner says, “to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.” I could not think of a better word than ‘rumble.’ And for us, when we say, “Hey, can we rumble at 3 o’clock about this new Spotify strategy,” it’s a serious intention setter, and it’s a behavioral cue, it’s a reminder, like we’re not meeting at 4 o’clock to pat each other on the back. We need to dig into some hard stuff, bring a point of view, be prepared, and let’s dig in together.

BB: Going back to that idea, this very helpful finding that courage is this collection of four skill sets that can be taught, observed and measured; those four skill sets, number one, rumbling with vulnerability. If you’ve read Dare to Lead, you know that the first half… The first 150 pages of that book is the first skill set. The other three skill sets combined take up 150 pages, 50 pages each. Number two, living into our values; three, braving trust; and four, learning how to rise. But the foundational skill of courage building is the willingness and ability to rumble with vulnerability; without this core skill, the other skill sets are just impossible to put into practice.

BB: So I think it’s important and fair to understand as hopefully a new committed listener to this Dare to Lead podcast, is that our ability to be daring leaders will never be greater than our capacity for vulnerability. Once we start to build vulnerability skills, we can start to develop the other skill sets. And so the goal of this podcast is to have really honest, tactical, practical conversations with daring leaders and researchers and troublemakers and culture shifters, to have really honest conversations so that we can give each other language, specifics on the tools, practices, so we can start to build the muscle memory for living into these concepts.

BB: So what is the Dare to Lead podcast going to be about? It’s going to really focus on the four skill sets of courage building and how different people are doing it and new ways; how is the psychologist working with some of the Premier League soccer teams; how is she working with them in a way to address fear and anxiety and panic around penalty kicks? And what does Simon Sinek have to teach us about the importance of why? About trust. What has Guy Raz learned through time? Aiko Bethea has written this amazing article about diversity, equity, and inclusion; what’s the next best step to stop talking about it and start doing it in our teams and organizations? So that’s this podcast.

BB: And I really hope you join us. I think it’s going to be fun, and I think it’s a little bleedership, like the bleeding edge of leadership, because we don’t have a lot of great examples of what it means to lead with courage, we don’t see that very often in the public sphere, and we need more of us. So let’s finish this up. Second kind of heart of daring leadership, self-awareness and self-love matter. Who we are is how we lead.

BB: We often think of just like these leaders that we interview, we think of courage as this inherent trait, you got it or you don’t. But courage is actually… And this was like, this was a hypothesis fail for me y’all. Courage is less about who people are and about how they behave and show up in difficult situations. So my hypothesis, when I learned about the importance of courage and brave leadership, my hypothesis was the biggest barrier to brave leadership is fear. And when I went back and talked to these leaders about what I was learning, they were like, “Hey, if I’m not allowed to be afraid, don’t put me on your list of daring leaders, because I’m afraid all day, every day.”

BB: Well, it turns out that it’s not fear that gets in the way of daring leadership, it’s armor; it’s how we self-protect when we’re afraid. And we’re going to dig so deep into this waist high, you will need waders. We’re just going to jump right into this. So fear is the emotion maybe at the center of the problematic behaviors and the culture issues, it’s what you’d expect to find. But the real underlying obstacle to brave leadership is how we respond to our fear; it’s our armor, the thoughts, the emotions, the behaviors that we use to self-protect when we’re not willing and able to rumble with vulnerability.

BB: And vulnerability, look simple definition, right? Uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. To be human is to be vulnerable, to be a leader is to be vulnerable every day, every moment. That’s leadership. And so we have to look at not only fear, but we have to talk about armor, and that’s where self-awareness comes in. I think right now, when we think about self-awareness; I always have people, when I’m taking them through the Dare to Lead training, I always have them make a circle in front of them with their arms, and I say, “Look inside this circle. Right now, maybe if you really practice, 30% or 40% of how you show up, what you think, you’re aware of it. You have self-awareness about 30, 40% of that. The other 70, 60% of that is outside of your field of self-awareness vision, we need to change that to be impactful, transformative leaders.”

BB: Where 70% of what we do, we’re aware of why we’re doing it, and maybe not in real time, because that would be hacking neurobiology in a way that I don’t know that we can do all the time, but even walking out of a meeting and going like “God, why was I such an asshole in there? What is going on?” And for the leader that lacks real self-awareness or who doesn’t even ask, just blames other people for it and keeps walking; versus the leader who walks out and says, “God, I don’t like the way I showed up in there. What’s going on?” Takes a deep breath. Walks outside, paces the parking lot, goes into her office and says, “What’s going on? Oh man.”

BB: So we’ll just use me for an example. If I am that intense kind of not great person in a meeting, 90% of the time it’s because I was in fear. Because when I’m in fear, I get intense. I talk more than I listen, and I get blame-y. So self-awareness, knowing yourself, self-compassion, self-love, they matter, because I don’t care how much I read, I don’t care how much I observe. I know that who we are as people is how we lead. So it’s not about consuming leadership strategies as much as it is looking inward and understanding who we are. So that we can apply those strategies in an effective way.

BB: Number three, courage is contagious. Look, if we want to scale daring leadership and build courage and teams and organizations, we have to create a culture in which brave work, tough conversations and whole hearts are the expectation. I used to have a sign that I would hang up when I taught, I had it in my office and when I went to the classroom, whatever classroom I was assigned to, I just put it right in front of my desk, that said, “If you are comfortable, we are not learning. Set the expectation of discomfort.” We also have to set up cultures where armor is not necessary or rewarded, and that’s tough.

BB: But if we want people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves, including their unarmored whole hearts to work so that we can innovate and solve problems and serve people, we have to be vigilant about creating this culture and we have to be… We have to be the leaders that we want people to be.

BB: I’m going to add this one too, to the heart of daring leadership, because it is something that we don’t talk about very often, it’s controversial, but the data are just very straightforward; daring leaders must care for and be connected to the people they lead. Care and connection are irreducible requirements for wholehearted productive relationships between leaders and team members.

BB: This means if you don’t have a sense of caring towards someone you lead, or we don’t feel connected to that person, we have two options; develop the care and the connection, or find a leader who is a better fit. There’s no shame in that. We’ve all experienced the kind of disconnection that doesn’t get better despite our strongest efforts to try to forge a relationship, a professional relationship with someone, and understanding that a commitment to care and connection is the minimum threshold; we need real courage to recognize when we can’t fully serve the people we lead.

BB: And I have to say that, just a quick story that when this was emerging from the research, I happened to be kind of really involved in a lot of work with the military, and I thought, “Holy crap, I’m already the researcher who studies vulnerability, talking to these troops about courage and vulnerability. That’s hard enough, and now I’m going to say, ‘Hey, you got to care for and be connected to the people you lead.'” And I am doing this work with the Air Force, talking with a General, and I share that finding that’s emerging from the data. And he just looked at me like I said, “Today’s Tuesday.” He was like, “Yes, ma’am, we know that.” I said, “What?” And he goes, “That’s a primary part of our belief system.”

BB: And I said, “Say more,” and he said, “We actually say, going all the way up, that affection for the people we lead is non-negotiable.” And it was so interesting because this came up for me so many times that emotional awareness, self-awareness. I get push-back from people in organizations whose work is important, but certainly not life or death. But when you take this work into organizations where their work is life or death, they’re like, “Yes, ma’am, we’ve got to really care for, we have to have affection for people, we get that, yes, ma’am. Self-awareness, that is actually a life or death situation for us, if you don’t know your emotions, if you don’t have self-awareness, not only you’re dangerous to yourself, you’re a danger to anyone standing next to you.”

BB: So we’ve got some stuff to learn, because what daring leadership asks from us is a lot. It means that leaders, that you and me, we’ve got to create and hold spaces that rise to a higher standard of behavior than what we experience certainly in the news or on TV, and for many people, the culture at work may need to even be better than what they experience in their own home.

BB: And these strategies, I will say, have made me a better partner. They’ve made me a better parent. They’ve made me a better friend, a better daughter. People are people are people. And if the culture in our school, our organization, our place of worship, even our family requires armor, because issues, abusive language, racism, classism, sexism, fear-based leadership, we just can’t expect wholehearted engagement, not from anyone, because look, mouth closed, head down, doesn’t lead to impactful work, people are just self-protecting.

BB: And when organizations reward armoring behaviors like blaming, shaming, cynicism, perfectionism, emotional stoicism; you can’t expect innovative work. We can’t fully grow and contribute behind armor. That shit is heavy. It is so heavy. And here’s the big midlife, developmental milestone: A mid-life is when the universe grabs you by the shoulders, pulls you in close and whispers, “I’m not screwing around here, that armor protected you when you were young, maybe when you were a child, but now it’s heavy, you’re dragging ass, and it’s preventing you from growing into the gifts that you have, and not utilizing your gifts. That’s not a benign proposition; that metastasizes into grief and rage and anger and depression and all kinds of hard stuff.”

BB: So we’re going to talk about that. We can’t fully grow and contribute behind armor, it just takes too much energy just to even carry it around. So if we’ve created cultures where people have to do that, just expect half of the input or output and twice the burnout. And look, I think the most powerful part of this process of daring leadership is seeing a list of behaviors emerge that are not hard-wired, everything is teachable, observable, measurable, whether you’re 14, 40, or 84. And it’s not genetic destiny, it’s what we choose to focus on. And I have to say, we’re not talking about soft skills here. This is not soft skills, this is some of the hardest, if not the hardest work we’ll ever do in our lives, is the work of becoming more courageous people, so we can lead.

BB: And look, the skill sets that make up courage are not new, they’ve been aspirational leadership skills for as long as there’s been leaders and leadership books. We just haven’t made great progress in these skills and leaders because we don’t dig into the humanity of the work, it’s too messy. It’s much easier to talk about what we want, than to talk about fears and feelings and scarcity, and the things that get in the way of achieving this, we just don’t have the courage for real talk about courage, but it’s time and that’s the Dare to Lead podcast.

BB: There are no words y’all for how grateful I am for you walking alongside me as I try to continue to learn and unlearn and relearn who I am, how I want to show up, how I want to step up and lead even when it’s scary as hell. And we can do this together because you just… We’re not meant to do it by ourselves, it’s just not how we’re wired. So this is the Dare to Lead podcast, and I can’t wait to be with you every week and talk to some really interesting people that will string up some twinkle lights so we can see our way down this bumpy-ass walk. Alright, thanks y’all.

BB: The Dare to Lead podcast is a Spotify original from Parcast. It’s produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, and Carleigh Madden. The sound design is by Kristen Acevedo, and the music is Take Me To The Good Times by The Suffers.


© 2020 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2020, October 19). The Heart of Daring Leadership. [Audio podcast episode]. In Dare to Lead with Brené Brown. Parcast Network.

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