Over the past year of my life, I have seen a recent theme emerge. As I approach what feel like “big moments” such as graduation, moving, and surviving graduate school, I have begun to reflect and break down the basic truths that I have been fed my entire life. As I reflect on so many of these ideas, I realize how many basic concepts that I have heard many times, yet have never fully understood.
These words and concepts can be common and used frequently in society, creating a self-perception that I should and do know what they mean. For example, as I mentioned in my previous blog, my research this year surrounding self-esteem has opened my eyes to understand this word much deeper than my previous understanding and connotation of the word.
Another simple, yet complex word that I have been reflecting on over the course of the semester is leadership. Once again, a word that we hear frequently in our society, and are expected to display. However, upon reflection and study I have come to face the reality that I have much growth to do in my understanding and practice of leadership.
Leadership is not becoming refined in my life because of a lack of exposure to it. In fact, I have seen and worked alongside many great leaders in my past and present working experiences. However, as I once again begin to face the reality of a being a month away from graduation and approaching another “big moment” in life as I begin a career, I have come to realize that my understanding of leadership has much room to grow.
My thoughts have been flooded with questions such as these:
How do I lead in my future work place as an entry-level employee?
How do I effectively lead as a woman?
What does healthy leadership look like and how can I practically display it?
How do I develop skills now that set me up for leadership positions in the future?
Am I capable? What if I fail?
A good part of this reflection has come from reading Brené Brown’s book, Dare to Lead. Brené Brown is a social worker, researcher, author, TED talker, and more. Through her many avenues of work, she has shared her research and wisdom to challenge the ways our world thinks and engages with topics such as shame, empathy, vulnerability, and leadership. If you have never engaged with her work, I encourage you to do so. In reading many of her books, I have grown and been stretched to be my best self throughout each read.
This semester, the SERVE team has read one of her books regarding leadership together. In reading Dare to Lead, we have come together to share our learnings and discuss practical applications to our personal and work settings. Below are some of Brené’s suggestions that have encouraged my growth, development, and understanding of leading courageously.
- Leadership comes from an ability to embrace the messy and courageously lead others through it.
So often, our individualistic culture drives us to stay in our own lane and flee from the difficult things our world offers. We don’t want to overstep our boundaries and we don’t want to address the hard things in hopes that it makes them go away. However, Brown challenges us that leadership comes from the courage and willingness to address the messy and dive into vulnerability.
- Self-awareness of our strengths, challenges, and values, creates effective leadership.
In suggesting wisdom for effective leadership, Brown states that integrity is a must, defined as “choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy; and it’s practicing your values, not just professing them” (Brown, 2018, p. 189).
In order to lead with integrity, we must know our values before we can profess or practice them. How can we lead in a way that honors who we are and who we are made to be if we have not defined what is most important to us? A large part of leadership is not just leading others, but first knowing, trusting, and leading ourselves.
- Leadership consists of trust; not only trusting others but being
Trust in a work place takes great work. It is not only trusting others to contribute to a project or follow through on their commitments, but also trusting each other to be vulnerable and brave and being met with empathy, not shame as a result. Creating an atmosphere of non-judgement, generosity, and reliability within a workplace not only creates confidence with trusting colleagues but creates an atmosphere of being a trusted leader.
- Expect setbacks, but learn to rise from them.
Another key aspect of leadership Brown addresses is the development of resiliency. There will be setbacks and there will be hard days. This is a guarantee in the world that will not change and can often not be controlled. However, what we can change and control, is our response to these challenges as a leader. Learning to regulate our responses, and teaching others to do the same helps us to lead with bravery, vulnerability, trust, and empathy.
This short book review and few points regarding leadership that I have learned from Brown’s Dare to Lead does not do justice to the 272 pages of research-informed, practically-based, ground-breaking wisdom that Brené offers.
As I approach another “big moment” in the next month and reflect on how to best equip and refine my skills as I step foot into the work place, I am grateful for the wisdom and example of great leadership found in Dare to Lead. As I approach my questions of how to effectively lead at an entry-level, as a woman, and in a future-oriented manner, I feel more confident to lean into leadership because of the example of Brené Brown.
As a female author who acknowledges barriers such as a difficulty to trust, personal failures and experiences, vulnerability and shame in the workplace, Dare to Lead was a read that I could not put down.
Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts. New York: Penguin Random House LLC.