Just finished Brene Brown's book Dare to Lead and wanted to share some insights I gained from it. I have been following her for years now. I love her studies around vulnerability, fear and shame. Feelings we do not talk about, definitely not in the workplace. I am grateful that she starts these difficult but important conversations.
Without these feelings, we are denying who we are as human beings and we cover up with many games we play at work. We act like there is no fear, there is no room to fail, there is no way to expose real emotions and like we never feel shame. Since these are so much part of who we are as human beings, this denial shows up as inauthenticity at work.
I remember the times I need to play the game. Nobody teaches you the rules of the game either. You realize over time that some topics or some emotions you share in your personal life do not belong in the workplace, where you spend most of your waking hours. They expect you to build walls between work and personal life. They want you to pretend some parts of you do not exist. If you are like me, you realize soon enough you cannot play the game. That is not easy either. One of our strongest needs as human beings, belonging, needs you to be part of the game while you know that will mean losing your soul. So we have to be real at work too by sharing our feelings.
One of the benefits of talking about these feelings at work is to recognize we are not alone. Even the tough CEOs who feel like they need to be strong at all times will know others at their position feel vulnerable, have shame or fear too. The hardest experience for people is to think you are the only one. That is why stories got to be so important to share. As more people share their stories with vulnerability, we find the common humanity in all of us.
The ones who are in the culture transformation space know really well there is no way to start any kind of transformation before leaders are ready to do personal self-growth first. Actually we had this exact conversation in one of my trusted tribes yesterday. You can teach anything and everything but if there are mental barriers that are never allowed to surface, you cannot make it last. It is hard work especially if your ego is already inflated. I have worked with hundreds of individuals ready to do self-reflection and increase self-awareness but they still represent a very small percentage of people who first declare they want to change. It takes great courage to see yourself and dive deep. I worked on myself for years until I got a better glimpse of my made-up stories, my limiting beliefs too and it is still going on. Once I feel like I uncovered one and work on it, there comes another one. It is a lifelong journey and many people are not up for it. That is why we have so many issues with leadership. It cannot be achieved only by leadership training. If we are not open to some self-discovery, the mind shift does not happen. I love how Brene Brown uses “armed” leadership. It is really being in defense mode to protect yourself to show your power not your vulnerability.
I like her observation:
”people lead from a place of hurt and smallness, and they use their position of power to try to fill that self-worth gap”.
It is so common all around us unfortunately. That is why we need to work on self-worth first. We need to find the source of that pain in us and work on it before we can move and shake our teams.
Some other points I liked in the book:
The Roosevelt quote is always part of her books and it is so wonderful to be reminded of what being in the arena actually means.
Shame she says in the workplace hides under perfectionism, comparison, discrimination, blaming, cover-ups and more. So true. Since we cannot talk about it, while it exists, shame takes other forms. I would suspect it would be one the last things people will be able to express at work since it is by nature one of the hardest feelings to share.
The values piece is so important too. I found years later why I was unhappy at some of my jobs. The biggest reason was around my values. They wanted me to do things that was in total conflict with my values. It is crucial to know the values we want to live by. I have all my clients go through that exercise because we all need to know what we stand for. It shapes our decisions, our work, when we say yes or no.
Trust is another one. Daring leaders trust their people. It was interesting to read 50% feel like people are doing the best they can with where they are and what they have. The ones who believe people are doing their best build more trusting environments.
Then the piece of our made-up stories. No other but Landmark Education has taught me how we make up stories all the time that shapes our reactions and our lives. If we can only stop in that moment when we feel triggered and recognize the story we are creating in our minds. The stories do not reflect the real truth, they stem from some wounds in our past. I am yet to see anyone who notices the story as they are making it up and sharing it at a work environment but it would certainly be a revelation.
I love what Brene Brown teaches and the choice of word “Dare” to Lead. It certainly takes courage to lead in the right way looking inside us first. It takes courage to accept all the feelings we want to cover up to look good all the time. That is exactly what makes us human though. The more leaders exemplify these behaviors, the more our humanity will benefit. There could be a time in the horizon when everyone can be courageous enough to be themselves at work. Let's dare to dream that!