The world needs braver and more courageous leaders — successful and inspiring leaders who will remove the barriers to good work and healthy workplaces.
In this series of articles, I’ve covered the four skillsets of courage-building as identified by Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, in her academic research and in her book Dare to Lead. The skills she describes are observable, measurable and, most importantly, teachable.
Dr. Brown’s Skillsets for Building Courage
Here are the four critical competencies:
- Rumbling with Vulnerability: This is by far the most important skill – the ability to have difficult, clear, kind, and accountable conversations.
- Living into Values: Who we are is how we lead. Leadership style is simply one’s core values translated into everyday action.
- BRAVING Trust: BRAVING stands for Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-judgment and Generosity. This kind of trust is the glue that holds teams and organizations together. No trust, no connection.
- Learning to Rise: This means building resilience to setbacks, surprises and failures.
The final skill, learning to rise, is an everyday topic among my friends and leader peers, especially in today’s pandemic environment. With Zoom and video meeting fatigue and trying to teach children at home while working at the same time, we’re struggling every single day to stay healthy, productive, engaged and connected. Almost no one is feeling “good enough” in any of their roles — as a leader, parent, friend, child, partner — and we’re often dealing with shame or vulnerability, and likely both. The stress of showing up and “rising up” every day often results in showing up as our not best selves.
The Problem with Trying to Build Resilience After the Fact
“If we don’t have the skills to get back up, we may not risk failing. And if we are brave enough, often enough, we are definitely going to fall.”—Dr. Brené Brown
In her research, Dr. Brown’s discovered that many leaders and executive coaches try to teach resilience skills after there has been a disappointment or failure. Shame and vulnerability always accompany failure, and fixing and problem-solving are not useful approaches to building courage. With millennials now constituting most of the workforce, embracing failure is more important than ever. Sadly, the long-term effects of “helicopter parenting” leaves many of our colleagues without well-developed or practiced resilience skills to use in their roles at work.
Learning to rise is about getting up and dusting ourselves off from the hurt of mistakes, rejection of ideas and not feeling “good enough,” and doing it in a way that will allow for wisdom and learning to come in. Most often, falling and failing result in made-up stories — mostly negative ones — that diminish our lovability, creativity, connection and trust.
“When we don’t own our stories of failure, setbacks and hurt — they own us.”—Dr. Brené Brown
It is up to leaders to understand this and prepare their teams to be brave. That means we also expect them to fail and fall. As brave leaders ourselves, we must talk about vulnerability (defined as risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure) and make it a point to model habits and behaviors that build trust and safety. We can teach new employees about shame, and show them how to use empathy to connect and support. We can have clear, kind and direct conversations that create powerful accountability and learning.
Leaders Make Their Teams a Safe Place to Stumble
Organizations are being pressured to innovate faster than ever just to survive. Yet, innovation as a value is just lip service if leaders are not rewarding and prepping teams for outcomes of failure and setbacks. In this pandemic environment, leaders who have the courage to model and teach teams about resilience will be the ones who come out of this with stronger teams and evolved business models for future success.
These courageous leaders are brave every day in the face of their fears. They sit in these daily moments of discomfort and make the choice to stay with that discomfort. They fall down and then pick themselves back up. They learn from the results. They embrace the vulnerability, then step into the fear again and again. They share their wisdom with others.
What inspires me to coach is being a witness to the amazing outcomes that are possible when a person chooses vulnerability, values, connection, self-trust, empathy and resilience. There are no limits for brave and courageous leaders. We “Dare to Lead” by taking off our armor and showing up instead with courage, compassion and connection.
After 40 years as president of her print and marketing company, Eileen Rogers’ encore career is now as a leadership coach and business advisor through her company One Creative View. She is a seasoned and accomplished entrepreneur and recognized community leader who is fiercely passionate about supporting and growing more vulnerable and courageous leaders. She is a certified Dare to Lead™ facilitator, Integrative Enneagram practitioner and executive coach.