Brave leadership is the willingness and ability to share your ideas freely, step up to risks, and have tough conversations.
Without your brave leadership, your team members hold back their ideas, play it safe to avoid failure, are critical of one another, look out for their own self-interest, suppress their true selves to be accepted, hide behind sarcasm instead of saying what they mean, pretend to know it all, avoid celebrating to avoid disappointment.
And that’s not even all the unproductive, downright ugly behaviors Brené Brown lists in her book Dare to Lead.
Small business leadership is not for the faint-hearted
In the Inspire Results blogpost, we’ve talked often that it takes courage to be a business owner, to deal with difficult situations. The weak-hearted manager avoids confrontation, avoids giving necessary feedback, and walks by mistakes without addressing them. To serve your people you need courage to address uncomfortable issues. It’s not “being nice” to your people when you tell them half-truths or neglect telling them how they could’ve done something better. In fact, you’re doing them a disservice.
The root of timid leadership
The root of timid leadership comes from 2 places: 1) fear and 2) shame.
Facing Your Vulnerability – Brown says to overcome your fear and build courage, you must face your vulnerability. Tools Brown gives to get comfortable with your vulnerability:
1. Build a safe container to hold your conversations. Ask team members, “What do you need to show up and do the work?”, “What will get in the way?”, “What does support from me look like?”
2. Use permission slips to give yourself permission to do something difficult, like give clear feedback or ask for help.
3. Resist the instinct to defend your views and instead be curious. Be curious by saying “Tell me more…” and not interrupting.
4. Call time-out if things become unproductive, “I need some time to think about this.”
5. Have the courage to share your thoughts/feelings.
Turning Shame to Empathy
Shame is feeling that you’re not good enough, that you’re flawed. We ALL have it and the more you try to hide it, the more power it has over you. Take care not to confuse shame with guilt, embarrassment, or humiliation. Brown’s main advice to overcome fear is to name it. Say it aloud to a trusted friend or family member. Once shame is stated aloud, it loses it’s power over you.
To help others get over their shame
Note that empathy is not offering sympathy, rather its connecting with someone’s feelings, being with them in their pain. Ways to express empathy—saying “Me too,” “I understand how you feel,” “I feel you.” It takes courage to just ‘be’ with someone in their dark space. Brown outlines 5 skills to help your team members (or anyone) turn their shame into empathy:
1. Take their perspective
2. Don’t judge.
3. Understand their feelings
4. Articulate that you understand
5. Relate to those emotions without suppressing or exaggerating them.
To find out how brave a leader you are, you can download Brown’s workbook for free and on pages 16-18 you can take the quiz
How to be a brave leader
In order to be a brave leader, Brown says Facing Your Vulnerability is the first and most important task you must accomplish. In fact, 2/3 of the book focuses on it. While she spends the most time on this one, there are 3 other ways to build your brave leadership:
1. Facing Your Vulnerability
2. Living Into Your Values – get clear about your values and think and act in alignment with those beliefs.
3. Braving Trust – don’t talk about trust in vague terms. You have to break it down into specific behaviors you can trust. “The Braving Inventory” can also be found at Brown’s DTL website.
4. Learning to Rise – before you sky-dive into vulnerability, equip yourself with the skills and systems to bounce back from failures.
As usual, your people will do what you do. Getting brave leadership right yourself will trickle throughout your management team and then your entire organization.