Being a good leader, according to Brené Brown

Is it possible to be a vulnerable leader? And if so, is it worth it? Is there space for vulnerability in business at all? After all, it’s about making money in the first place.

Urszula Radzińska

Urszula Radzińska

Journalist and musicologist who decided to dedicate herself to looking for harmony in corporate communication. Head of leading Polish content marketing agency Aude, CEO of Content Marketing Polska Association, author of interviews with experts “Your First Customer”.

★ 3 minutes czytania

Brené Brown has been studying vulnerability, shame, bravery and empathy at the University of Houston for twenty years. She is the author of numerous books, all of which are worth reading. Today, I would like to persuade you to devote your time to her latest publication, “Dare to Lead”, which has also been translated to Polish as “Odwaga w przywództwie”.

I believe every leader should read this book. And especially those leaders who think vulnerability is a sign of fear and weakness; who believe showing vulnerability at work leads to failure and is an encouragement to take advantage of someone.

Brené provokes to thinking. She refutes stereotypes, which may not seem like stereotypes to you, but she believes they are – and from “Dare to Lead” you will find out why. Admit it, you usually think that:

  • Vulnerability is a sign of weakness.
  • I don’t allow myself to be vulnerable.
  • I can do it myself.
  • You can eliminate elements of insecurity and discomfort from vulnerability.
  • Trust first, vulnerability next.
  • Vulnerability is about exposing everything.

In her book, Brené Brown draws upon research and her own experience. The story that will stay with me for long is the one about coping with setting impossible deadlines. The problem was reported by her team. Let me quote a fragment to encourage you to read:

I didn’t want to say: It’s true I can’t tell how much time various things take, and the more I understand what skills are needed, the more I doubt I will ever be able to do something about it.

            I didn’t want to say how terrified I was. What if that feeling of insufficiency and fear means that I’m not good enough to be a leader? I was overwhelmed by the thought I was not able to present even an outline of strategy to my co-workers. And what if communication difficulties are a proof that I’m not good at running a company? Gremlins of shame kept whispering to my ear: ‘You are not good for the job. You study leadership but you can’t lead. You are ridiculous!’

            When something terrifies us or when other emotions make us focus on protecting our own ‘self’ the armouring scenarios are usually the following:

  1. I am worthless.
  2. If I talk openly about what’s going on, they will lose confidence in me – and possibly will want to use my confession against me.
  3. No way, there will be no sincere confession. No one reveals such things. Why would I expose myself like that?
  4. Why would I care. They also don’t speak openly about their fears. And it’s not that they don’t have any problems.
  5. I’m actually acting like that because of all those problems and flaws. So it’s in fact their fault, and now they’re trying to blame me.
  6. If you think about it, I’m actually better than them.

People think there is a long way between the point “I am worthless” and “I am better than them” but in fact, it’s the same point. Exactly the same. A point of fear, a point when you start to armour.

The author provides examples which convince readers that empathy and vulnerability can only do good to organizations. She hypothesizes that there is no creativity and innovation without empathy. 

I first came upon Brené Brown by accident – I watched a 2019 documentary on Netflix. It’s a video where Brené tells about what was happening to her for seven years and how she felt after she spontaneously decided to expose her vulnerability on TEDxHouston. 

Here you can watch a teaser:

Brené Brown 2010 video on TEDxHouston “The Power of Vulnerability”:

Kategorie: power of contentic, B2E

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