leadership book reviews

Book Review: Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

We’re excited to launch a new series here on the blog! Our Consultants will be reading some of the top leadership books of today and sharing their thoughts. Here to kick things off is Vice President of Organizational Consulting Dr. Patricia Bagsby, who recently read Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead.

Dare to Lead

As I read Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts, my thoughts, in a nutshell, were “what could be more Q4 than this?!” In her latest book, Brené Brown explores how to “take off the armor” and find courage, connection, and meaning in the world of work.

This book follows Brown’s other works Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. However, it’s not necessary to have read these prior to starting Dare to Lead; Brown does a nice job summarizing themes and main points from her previous work along the way.

Dare to Lead’s themes include what it means to be vulnerable, how shame derails us in our pursuits of greatness, and embracing a commitment to continuously growing as leaders and individuals through interpersonal communication skill building. Brown engages these topics by providing research, sharing personal narratives, as well as offering practical advice, tips, and tools.

THIS Is a Management Book?

Some might think, “woah, I just want to learn how to manage up better. I am not talking to my boss about shame or building connection.” This is a valid response. Generally, we do not talk about vulnerability at work.

Brown highlights some of her conversations with leaders who relay what some of us were taught growing up: The idea that vulnerability is weakness.

So, wanting to be strong, brave leaders, we shut down thoughts of vulnerability and forge ahead. It’s not until we experience some sort of source of resistance in our career (e.g., lack of upward movement, poor relationships, or sometimes personal feelings of doubt as we face a new opportunity) that we start to explore some of the sources of our derailment.

Cue leadership training — let me tell you why this is a fantastic thing.

Daring to Think About Personal Needs

When I’m training and coaching leaders using PA’s Q4 Dimensional Model of Behavior, I get to help leaders build their skills in identifying behavior. Throughout the Leadership Through People Skills workshop, we discover and name behaviors of others (e.g., direct reports, peers, boss) as a means of identifying the most effective response and gaining an optimal outcome to a work situation.

In the workshop, we don’t just explore others’ behavior. Getting real about our own behavior is a key element of the workshop as well.

Leaders who attend LTPS are ready to dive in and really explore the way they show up for work every day — in good times and in bad. A key learning point is that all behavior comes from an internal response. Specifically, we discuss the needs underlying behavioral expression.

For example, I may be overly sensitive to wanting everyone to be happy and act in people-pleasing ways. This is likely coming from a social need — a need to be liked or need for belonging.

Understanding the underlying personal needs helps to reframe an individual’s behavior as an attempt at meeting a need — and helps eliminate judgment about whether an individual is inherently good or bad. It’s also not about personality. Personal needs lead to behavior, and understanding those needs can help us find connection and meaning.

Connecting Brené Brown to Q4

I am so excited about Brown’s work because she powerfully yet simply identifies the next level of understanding…. why.

In LTPS, we discover what personal needs exist and how they manifest in behavior. Brown’s work provides insight into the deeper personal considerations for where their behavior might originate.

Using the previous example, if my personal need is sociability, and causes me to sacrifice results for the sake of relationships, you might ask — why do I have a social need? Brown’s work around understanding the human need for connection and belonging helps to shed light on how these needs can be born of our experiences in life, and easily spill into our work life.

In this way, Brown’s work is an excellent resource for leaders to examine their own needs more deeply. The author provides tools for navigating a team full of individuals all with their own needs spilling over into workplace behaviors.

Gaining Deeper Insight

As an executive coach, guiding individuals as they learn to understand behavior (their own and others’), I am frequently asked about additional behavioral resources. I’ll be adding Dare to Lead to my list of referred reading for leaders who want to explore their own personal needs basis further.

Gaining deeper insight into the why of behavior is sometimes the difference between getting back on track and continuing to be derailed.

First, you must understand your own behavior and the needs underlying it; this is accomplished through the LTPS workshop. Once you can name and claim your own behavior, you are ready for what Brown calls “grounded confidence.” Grounded confidence encourages curiosity, and curiosity leads to learning and emotional literacy — as Brown simply states, if you can name it, you can move through it.

When describing leadership behavior through the Q4 Dimensional Model, we coach leaders to aspire to Q4 leadership. Q4 leadership is confident, collaborative, respectfully challenging, balancing tasks with relationships. Brown’s description of brave work, tough conversations, and whole hearts fits perfectly in Q4.

As a trainer, coach, colleague, person out in the world, I am grateful to Brené Brown for tackling the subject of naming the uncomfortable origins of some of our needs basis and therefore our behavior. If you’ve taken the Leadership Through People Skills workshop, you have an understanding of your behavioral patterns and needs. Consider this book a recommended follow-up to LTPS. I promise, you’ll walk away with a deeper understanding of the Dimensional Model’s behavior quadrants, and perhaps even a deeper “why” to your own behavior.

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