SYNOPSIS

What does it take to be a brave and courageous leader? How can emotional responses be channeled effectively in the workplace?

Based on interviews with hundreds of global leaders, research professor Brené Brown – whose TED talk is one of the five most watched – summarizes the learnable skills that underpin daring leadership, and shows how embracing vulnerability helps you to lead even when you aren’t sure of the outcome.

Once you embrace the power of vulnerability, you can stop avoiding difficult conversations and being afraid to accept new ideas and start trusting and building resilience.

TOP 20 INSIGHTS

  1. Research professor Brené Brown interviewed hundreds of global C-level leaders over a twenty-year period. Her research shows that there are four learnable skills that underpin daring leadership: embracing vulnerability, living core values, braving trust, and developing resilience.
  2. A daring leader is someone who takes up the responsibility to find the potential in people, and who is committed to develop that potential.
  3. Brown’s TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” is one of the top five most-viewed TED talks in the world. She defines embracing vulnerability as having the courage to show up when you can’t be sure of the outcome.
  4. In the words of Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics: “In the past, jobs were about muscles, now they’re about brains, but in the future they’ll be about the heart.”
  5. Trust holds teams and organizations together. Companies with high levels of trust beat the average annualized returns of the S&P500 by a factor of three.
  6. Doug R. Conant says that inspiring trust was his priority in his ten-year turnaround of Campbell Soup Company: “[T]rust is the one thing that changes everything. It’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. Without it, every part of your organization can fall, literally, into disrepair.”
  7. There are seven behaviors that build trust over time: boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, nonjudgement, and generosity, i.e., braving.
  8. Learning resilience must come first. Leaders invariably try to teach resilience skills to their teams after there’s been a setback or failure. But that’s like trying to teach a skydiver how to land after they’ve hit the ground or even as they’re in freefall.
  9. Brown’s team asked a thousand leaders to list behaviors that earn team-members positive recognition. The most common answer: asking for help.
  10. Google’s five-year study of highly productive teams found that the most important dynamic that set successful teams apart was psychological safety—team members feeling safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other.
  11. Research shows that leaders must either invest time attending to fears and feelings, or spend more time trying to manage unproductive and ineffective behavior. If a manager is addressing the same problematic behaviors over and over, s/he may need to dig deeper into the thinking and feeling driving those behaviors.
  12. One way to cultivate commitment and a shared organizational purpose is to adopt the TASC approach to projects and strategies: Task, Authority, Success, Checklist.
  13. Shame is a universal emotion that we all try to avoid. In the workplace shame manifests as favoritism, gossiping, harassment, perfectionism, and cover-ups. The opposite of shame is empathy, connecting to the emotions that underpin someone’s experience.
  14. Curiosity about different views and how they may come into conflict—asking questions and reaching out for more information—is essential for building daring leadership. A study in Neuron suggests that brain chemistry changes when we become curious, helping us to better learn and retain information.
  15. Daring leadership needs clear values that the leader lives by every day. Melinda Gates says that tying tactics to core values and then explaining them to others makes a leader better able to question their own assumptions.
  16. The key to operationalizing core values across the company or workplace is to be very clear on the skills that undergird those values. Set clear expectations for everyone to create a shared language and a well-defined culture.
  17. Brown’s research shows that leaders who are trained in resilience are more likely to embrace courageous behaviors, because they know how to get back up after a fall. People who don’t have the skills to get back up are less likely to risk falling.
  18. Teaching how to embrace failure as a learning opportunity is especially important today, when millennials make up 35% of the American workforce.
  19. The most effective strategy for recognizing an emotion is to practice what soldiers call Tactical Breathing.
  20. As a leader, it’s important to recognize that people will make up their own stories during a time of upheaval or stress, and without data they will start with their own fears and insecurities. The daring leader gives people as much data and facts as possible so that their stories are more complete.

SUMMARY

To be a daring leader, one who is not afraid of change and new challenges, you must embrace vulnerability, recognizing it not as a form of weakness but as a willingness to acknowledge when you don’t know all the answers. Instead of protecting the ego by avoiding difficult situations, embrace vulnerability by encouraging empathy, curiosity, and shared purpose. Operationalize the organization’s core values; and, build trust by setting clear boundaries and being reliable and generous. Build resilience by recognizing when a situation or emotion has a hold over you; learn how to recognize and accept the emotion and create a story that you can control.

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