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The Power of Courageous Leadership: 3 Insights from Brené Brown

Imagine a leadership style that interweaves courage with vulnerability, authenticity, and empathy. Such is the transformative vision proposed by Brené Brown, a renowned researcher and author whose work is reshaping the truths of leadership. Here, we share Brené’s three key insights on courageous leadership.

“Brave leaders are never silent about hard things. What differentiates leaders from others is their ability and willingness to unearth the unsaid.”

The responsibility of a leader is to figure out what is not being said that’s getting in the way of good work. Brené says that leaders shouldn’t feel pressure to handle the hard conversations perfectly, but instead focus on engaging with humility and honesty. Additionally, Brené emphasizes that leaders should understand that most of the time in those difficult discussions, they will learn that they were part of the problem.

Brené also emphasizes that courage is connected to being uncomfortable. “Every day leaders have to ask themselves this question: courage over comfort? Will I choose being brave over being comfortable today? And if you think you’re being brave and you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not being that brave.”

“We have to spend a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings—or an unreasonable amount of time dealing with problematic behavior.”

According to Brené, behind problematic behavior at work, there are fears and feelings leaders need to address. She explains that leaders sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that attending to those fears and feelings is not part of their job, as they are not therapists. But, it is their job. The responsibility of a leader is to build cultures where people feel safe, where they can be creative, and where they feel they can contribute.

“We want to believe that we are rational beings that on occasion have a feeling that gets in the way. The truth is that we are emotional beings who on occasion think.” So, in order to lead people in a sustainable and meaningful way, leaders need to attend to fears and feelings.

“One of the big problems that happens in the absence of a courageous culture is that when something goes wrong, we want to solve it immediately. We don’t take any time to diagnose the problem.”

Brené explains that this eagerness to jump into solving the problem instead of taking a closer look is known as action bias. Action bias occurs in those who can’t stand the vulnerability needed to stay with the problem.

Brené recalls Einstein saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” She emphasizes that courageous leaders have the vulnerability needed to define the problem first before turning to action.

Learn more from Brené Brown at NBF 2024


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