The Sydney Morning Herald.
Cara Waters. August 6, 2019
Research professor and best selling author Brené Brown has spent years investigating leadership.
“The future of leadership belongs to the brave,” Brown told an audience of 4,000 in Melbourne on Friday. “The thing we are missing more than anything right now is courage in leadership.”
The Texan is best known for her TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, which has inspired millions of people. Her latest book Dare to Lead is based on interviews with 150 leaders across a range of industries, on which she based her workshops in Australia with The Growth Faculty.
When asked who is going to be leading in the next five years, each of those leaders told Brown it would be those who are brave.
“You lean in, you are brave, you get your arse kicked a little bit. Daring leaders are never silent about hard things.”
Here are Brené Brown’s tips on how to deal with these barriers:
“We are tapping out of hard conversations,” Brown says.
She says people fear being unkind, yet avoiding difficult conversations is more unkind in the long run.
“The universal answer is [that if] we don’t talk to them we talk about them,” she says. “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.”
Fears and feelings
Ignoring fears and feelings is a classic mistake made by leaders, says Brown.
“We have to spend a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or you will spend an unreasonable amount of time dealing with problematic behaviour,” she says.
She argues that if you are not dealing with fears and feelings, you are not leading.
“The truth of humans is we are emotional beings who on occasions think,” she says.
“Strategy is only as good as the people executing against it. If you don’t peel the onion you don’t understand what is driving the problematic behaviour.”
Brown says setbacks are a part of life in businesses that seek innovation, so people need to be prepared for setbacks.
“We don’t tell people to reset when they are down on the ground,” she says. “We onboard for it. This is a skillset we can teach people.
“If you want people to be brave, teach them how to reset. The people who make the boldest moves know how to get back up.”
One key issue Brown sees is an action bias in problem solving.
“When something goes wrong there is a mistake, there is a problem, there is a failure,” she says. “Rather than just staying in the problem, we just push to fix it right away because we can’t stand the vulnerability of staying in problem identification.”
Brown says for many people, including herself, the tendency is to try to blame someone for a problem.
“People who blame, it’s about control,” she says. “Sitting in problem identification is an acknowledgment of a lack of control. The opposite of blame is accountability.”
Inclusivity, diversity and equity
Leaders need to be aware of the need for inclusivity, diversity and equity, Brown says.
“To opt out of these conversations because they make you uncomfortable is the definition of privilege,” she says.
“You lean in, you are brave, you get your arse kicked a little bit. Daring leaders are never silent about hard things. ”
Shame and blame
Finally, Brown says shame and blame needs to be identified in the workplace.
“Looking for shame in an organisation is like doing a termite inspection,” she says. “If you walk through an organisation and you see shame, you have a crisis situation.”
“You can find some people who can tolerate it, but shit rolls down hill even down under,” she says.
“Shame can only rise to a certain level in a team or organisation before people have too neurologically disengage to self protect. The more self worth someone has, the faster they will disengage to self protect.”
Courage and vulnerability
Overcoming these barriers takes courage, according to Brown, and she says courage is “absolutely” a skill set.
“We spend our entire adult lives trying to reconcile that we want to be brave but we don’t want to,” she says.
Despite this, Brown says “we have to learn to stay in it” in order to lead bravely.
“Vulnerability is not over-sharing, it is not crying, it is staying in it when you are uncertain,” she says. “It is managing risk. To me vulnerability is being in the arena.
“It is not weakness, it is the courage to show up and put yourself out there when you can’t control the outcome.
“If you think you are brave and you are comfortable, then you are not being that brave.”
The article was originally published on The Sydney Morning Herald.