Review – Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

brown-daretolead-cover Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. Brene Brown

I’m a latecomer to Brene Brown’s work. “Dare to Lead” is her most recent book and the first I’ve had the chance to read. My loss and easily correctable.

If you go to Amazon, limit your search just to books, and enter “leadership,” you get over 70,000 results. An evergreen topic to be sure and, as a student of organizations, one I’ve been tuned into for decades. This entry is worth your attention.

Brown starts with a definition of a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” Leadership is about how you act.

I found it particularly interesting that she deems curiosity to be an essential and central element of effective leadership. Leadership is a willingness to pick a direction and walk into the unknown. Brown draws on work by Ian Leslie who makes this observation:

Curiosity is unruly. It doesn’t like rules, or, at least, it assumes that all rules are provisional, subject to the laceration of a smart question nobody has yet thought to ask. It disdains the approved pathways, preferring diversions, unplanned excursions, impulsive left turns. In short, curiosity is deviant.

This is a take on leadership that may not mesh with conventional cliches. But Brown builds a persuasive case.

She has practical advice as well. Leadership is a skill that develops with practice; learnable, probably coachable, likely not teachable. Among the many ideas Brown offers are two that I expect to add to my own practice immediately. The first is a call to “paint done,” which asks for more imagination than a more conventional “define what equals done.” I can see how I would tackle that.

The second is a conversational gambit Brown calls “the story I make up…” The premise is that we are always making up stories to account for the behavior we see in others. Those stories are generally wrong on multiple dimensions—Google “fundamental attribution error.” Brown’s insight is that if we share the assumptions we are making and defuse them by acknowledging that they are just stories, we can get to a new, shared, story that will let us make real progress.

This is a book I will be returning to. Brown brings a rare blend of research skills and direct leadership experience to her work. Leadership is always in shorter supply than what the world demands.

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