(~6.5 minute read.)
Our guest blogger today is Dayle O’Brien who wrote the following book review for her colleagues at Nation Partners. She generously shared it with me, and on asking her, she kindly agreed to share it more broadly and so, here it is.
Dayle’s generosity is no surprise to me. In the 10-odd years that I have known Dayle, she has generously shared her knowledge and wisdom. She has also challenged me (with support), which has only added to my learning and to our friendship.
In this photo, Dayle is in the Romanian mountains, combining two of her favourite interests – hiking and travel.
In her own words and as originally shared with her colleagues …
Dare to Lead builds on all Brown’s past books (which I haven’t read) and 20 years of research.
I have been reluctant to get into this book because of the craze and “fad” hallmarks that I am always slightly suspicious of. I’m pleased to say my suspicions were completely unfounded and I probably should have got into it sooner. Better late than never as they say.
It’s one of those texts that is multi-layered and will provide insight for many years to come each time you pick it up and read sections of it thoroughly.
Brown’s message is that leaders (that’s all of us, especially in a self-managing structure) need to build courage and then lead with it. This book is dense because the work of becoming Daring is hard, complex, and demanding.
Brown identifies ten behaviours and cultural issues (p. 7) that are getting in the way of our organisations and she attempts to address them in this book. Her research team has grouped the skills required into 4 skill sets and these form the FOUR PARTS of the book:
- Rumbling with Vulnerability
- Living into our Values
- Braving Trust
- Learning to Rise
Brown’s message is that leaders (that’s all of us, especially in a self-managing structure) need to build courage and then lead with it.
I think the concept of Rumbling with Vulnerability was the main source of my cynicism. I’ve seen or heard leaders who are proponents of Brown’s teachings “do” vulnerability, i.e. disclose some deeply personal information in one form or another with their audience and pat themselves on the back for being courageous (aka “great”) leaders. Thankfully, this is not through any fault of Brown. She debunks this myth and several others (p. 23) from many angles.
Brown also states three very clear insights from the research:
- You can’t get to courage without Rumbling with Vulnerability.
- Self-Awareness and self-love matter. Who we are is how we lead.
- Courage is contagious. To scale daring leadership and build courage in teams and organisations, we have to cultivate a culture in which brave work, tough conversations, and whole hearts are the expectation, and armour is not necessary or rewarded.
Daring Leadership requires us to recognise and own our Armour and then put it aside. Which is of course, easier said than done.
You will need to read the book and practice the exercises to develop the skills for Daring Leadership, but I want to share a resource from the book (p. 76) that I think is useful for getting your head around what is being called for, for ourselves, each other, our organisations, our communities and our futures.
|Armored Leadership||Daring Leadership|
|01||DRIVING PERFECTIONISM AND FOSTERING FEAR OF FAILURE||MODELLING AND ENCOURAGING HEALTHY STRIVING, EMPATHY, AND SELF-COMPASSION|
|02||WORKING FROM SCARCITY AND SQUANDERING OPPORTUNITIES FOR JOY AND RECOGNITION||PRACTICING GRATITUDE AND CELEBRATING MILESTONES AND VICTORIES|
|03||NUMBING||SETTING BOUNDARIES AND FINDING REAL COMFORT|
|04||PROPAGATING THE FALSE DICHOTOMY OF VICTIM OR VIKING, CRUSH OR BE CRUSHED||PRACTICING INTEGRATION – STRONG BACK, SOFT FRONT, WILD HEART|
|05||BEING A KNOWER AND BEING RIGHT||BEING A LEARNER AND GETTING IT RIGHT|
|06||HIDING BEHIND CYNICISM||MODELLING CLARITY, KINDNESS AND HOPE|
|07||USING CRITICISM AS SELF-PROTECTION||MAKING CONTRIBUTIONS AND TAKING RISKS|
|08||USING POWER OVER||USING POWER WITH, POWER TO, AND POWER WITHIN|
|09||HUSTLING FOR OUR WORTH||KNOWING OUR VALUE|
|10||LEADING FOR COMPLIANCE AND CONTROL||CULTIVATING COMMITMENT AND SHARED PURPOSE|
|11||WEAPONIZING FEAR AND UNCERTAINTY||ACKNOWLEDGING, NAMING AND NORMALIZING COLLECTIVE FEAR AND UNCERTAINTY|
|12||REWARDING EXHAUSTION AS A STATUS SYMBOL AND ATTACHING PRODUCTIVITY TO SELF-WORTH||MODELLING AND SUPPORTING REST, PLAY AND RECOVERY|
|13||TOLERATING DISCRIMINATION, ECHO CHAMBERS, AND A “FITTING IN” CULTURE||CULTIVATING A CULTURE OF BELONGING, INCLUSIVITY, AND DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES|
|14||COLLECTING GOLD STARS||GIVING GOLD STARS|
|15||ZIGZAGGING AND AVOIDING||STRAIGHT TALKING AND TAKING ACTION|
|16||LEADING FROM HURT||LEADING FROM HEART|
I encourage you to have a read through this list and notice which ones you recognise in yourself and would like to overcome. Then dip into the relevant pages somewhere between 78 and 114 to better understand what is holding you back and what you could do differently.
Another interesting layer to add to your thinking is the link between Shame and your Armour.
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.
Shame is the fear of disconnection – it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection.”
In other words, our armour goes on when we are triggered. And the thing that usually triggers us is the possibility that our “ugly” side (our unwanted identity) is about to be exposed.
Empathy & Self-compassion
Brown suggests the key to finding your way to Daring Leadership is empathy and self-compassion (p. 136). If we can find a way to offer this to ourselves and each other we may feel safer to access the courage that is needed for Daring Leadership. Pages 143 – 149 provide some strategies to develop the empathy skills the research uncovered. I’ll let you dip in where you are interested but especially want to draw your attention to this:
“The good news is that we don’t judge in areas where we feel a strong sense of self-worth and grounded confidence, so the more of that we build, the more we let go of judgement.”
Brown offers us this:
Grounded Confidence = Rumble Skills + Curiosity + Practice
I’m going to do some paraphrasing to demonstrate my sense-making of this equation:
Rumbling starts with a genuine desire to uncover the multiple “truths” of a situation (curiosity) before deciding whatever is being decided, rather than a focus on right or wrong. This requires an open heart and an open mind.
The more genuinely curious we are, the easier it is to rumble. The more we practice rumbling with ourselves and others, the better we get at it and make better decisions and choices more often.
When we make better decisions more often (and achieve good outcomes), grounded confidence is justified and established.
If rumbling is a bit foreign to you, Brown offers some rumble starters/questions (p. 172). E.g. “I’m working from this assumption – what about you?”
In this section of the book Brown explores and explains the importance of Living into our Values: our “ways of being or believing that we hold most important”. And aligning our intentions, words, thoughts and behaviours with those beliefs.
There are some activities to get you started (p. 186) and whilst I haven’t completed all the activities yet, I have found the ones I have tackled suitably illuminating. From an extensive list of values (p. 188), Brown challenges us to choose one or two values – “the beliefs that are most important and dear to you, that help you find your way in the dark, that fill you with a feeling of purpose.” Then begin the process of operationalising them.
(At Nation Partners, I’m please to say that the way we have been operationalising our Values/Beliefs stacks up against the tactics outlined.)
Ultimately, in order to rumble, we have to Brave Trust. It’s not an option and our willingness to rumble depends on it. Rather than walking into the minefield that the trust conversation seems to evoke (Do I trust you? Do you think I am trust-worthy?), Brown’s team developed the BRAVING Inventory and suggests this is what needs to be discussed and understood (p. 225):
- Boundaries: you ask about and respect my boundaries
- Reliability: you do what you say you’ll do
- Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologise and make amends
- Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share
- Integrity: You choose courage over comfort
- Nonjudgement: We can ask for what we need and how we feel without judgement
- Generosity: you extend the most generous interpretation to the intentions, words, and actions of others
Rather than walking into the minefield that the trust conversation seems to evoke (Do I trust you? Do you think I am trust-worthy?), Brown’s team developed the BRAVING Inventory.
To succeed as Daring Leaders, we must build the skills to get back up when we fall (Learning to Rise), because all Daring Leaders are going to fall. It comes with the territory. In this section of the book, Brown provides another of her favourite step processes. I’m loath to summarise here at the risk of simplifying some of the most difficult work we all have to do. But here goes:
- The Reckoning: knowing that we’re emotionally hooked and then getting curious about it. Brown claims that not many of us get through the reckoning because instead of recognising our emotions and getting curious about them, we offload them onto others.
- The Rumble: when we are in an emotional struggle, and in the absence of data, we make up stories that help to make sense of the emotions we are feeling. Brown calls this the shitty first draft! The Rumble is the (uncomfortable) process we undertake to explore and uncover the “truth”, which is often quite different to that first draft.
- The Revolution: in a world that is becoming less courageous and authentic, Brown states that we need a Revolution and that to find and draw on our Courage is the rebellious act to bring it on.
In her closing words she offers us the three things that she leant from all the research conducted over many years:
- The level of collective courage in an organisation is the absolute best predictor of that organisation’s ability to be successful in terms of culture, to develop leaders, and to meet its mission.
- The greatest challenge in developing brave leaders is helping them to acknowledge and answer their personal call to courage. Courage can be learned… [and this book is a handy manual]
- We fail the minute we let someone else define success for us…
In a world that is becoming less courageous and authentic, Brown states that we need a Revolution and that to find and draw on our Courage is the rebellious act to bring it on.
My closing thoughts
This book is dense, so it is difficult to summarise and do it justice. There is so much richness in the spaces in between the bullet points and anagrams.
I hope you recognise some of the design elements, processes and coaching techniques that I have been introducing and you make your own links to your own areas of self-development, challenges, curiosities and sources of courage. If there is something in particular you would like to take a deeper dive into and think I can help, let me know!
Dayle’s work approach is driven by a belief that organisations can and should be places of opportunity for people to thrive and contribute positively to better futures. She is an organisational design and development practitioner.
Thank you Dayle, for your contribution in helping me to be the best version of myself.