Insights – Dare to Lead: Notes from the book

23rd March 2022

Posted in: Insights

Brene Brown’s book ‘Dare to Lead’ is a fantastic lesson in leadership; from embracing vulnerability and wholeheartedness and tips for rumbling, empathy and our true values. So many lessons to take away and implement in my own leadership.

My key takeaways are summarised below


“A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding potential in people and processes and who has the courage to develop that potential”

Issues that exist in organisations

  1. We avoid tough conversations, honest and productive feedback
  2. We spend too much time managing problematic behaviours
  3. Lack of connection and empathy dismisses trust
  4. Status quo and groupthink due to fear
  5. Getting stuck on setbacks and failures causes us to question our value
  6. Shame and blame instead of accountability
  7. Avoid discussions on diversity and inclusivity
  8. Rushing to solutions for the wrong reasons
  9. Values based on aspiration rather than actual behaviour
  10. Perfectionism

A rumble is a conversation committed to leaning into vulnerability, staying curios and generous, sticking with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to break and circle back, if necessary, to be fearless and to listen with the same passion as which we want to be heard.


Daring is saying I know I will eventually fall but I’m still all in.


Vulnerability is the emotion we experience during uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.


Be clear on whose opinions matter to you! These are your share squad.


Myths of vulnerability

  1. Vulnerability is weakness
  2. I don’t do vulnerability
  3. I can go it alone
  4. You can’t engineer the discomfort out of vulnerability
  5. Trust comes before vulnerability.
  6. Vulnerability Is disclosure


Marble Jar

Trust can be earned by big deeds and heroic moments but also small moments such as paying attention, listening and genuine moments. When someone earns trust by one of these deeds it is like adding a marble into a jar. When trust is eroded, a marble is taken out.


Safe Container

Asking what the team needs to feel open and safe in a conversation i.e. psychological safety means we feel we can make a mistake without others penalising or humiliating them if the ask for help.


Things that block psychological safety include:

  • Interrupting
  • Unsolicited advice giving
  • Judgement
  • Sharing outside the group

Things that promote psychological safety:

  • Curiosity
  • Listening
  • Honesty
  • Keeping confidence
  • Setting boundaries- making clear what is ok and what is not


Say more:  the tool to get more clarity in a rumble i.e. seek first to understand, then to be understood.


Stealth intention: I can protect myself from rejection, shame and judgement.

Stealth expectation: They won’t turn away and think I’m a bad person



Clear is kind- unclear is unkind

Daring leadership requires adaptability to change, hard conversations, feedback, problem solving, ethical decision making, recognition, resilience and all of these are all born from vulnerability


How to rumble:

Permission slips: each person write down something you give yourself permission to do during a rumble

Taking minutes: everyone takes their own notes, but one will record minutes.

Turn and learn everyone writes ideas first and then shares to avoid halo and bandwagon effect

Gritty faith and gritty facts: we all need to be optimists and reality checkers

What’s my part: each understanding our role in achieving an outcome.

Call a time out if needed



Ego is the enemy of wholeheartedness – shame behaviours vs appropriate behaviours


Perfectionism is fear of what others will think vs healthy striving i.e. how can I improve


Focusing on scarcity and fear v practicing gratitude.


Using numbing tools vs understanding the cause of our feelings.


Crush or be crushed attitude vs integration- bringing all parts of our world together. Both fierce and kind.


Being a knower and always being right v being a learner and getting it right.


Cynicism and sarcasm v kindness and hope.


Criticism v making a contribution (offering a plan or idea)


Power over v power with, power to and power within


Hustling for your worth v knowing your value


Compliance i.e., productivity police v shared committment and purpose.


Weaponising fear v acknowledging fear


Rewarding exhaustion and prioritising productivity v modelling balance


Tolerating fitting in and discriminations culture v belonging and inclusivity


Collecting gold stars v giving them


Zigzagging (procrastinating) v direct action


Leading from hurt v from heart



The Accountability & Success Checklist (TASC)


Scrum Technique



Shame: The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging and connection.

Guilt = I did something bad

Shame= I am bad


Drives feelings of never good enough and who do you think you are?

Drives ego and narcissism – the shame and fear of being ordinary


Shame in workplace leads to bullying, criticising in front of others,  public reprimands, reward systems that embarrass, shame or humiliate. Self-worth tied to productivity or perfectionism.


Shame resilience: moving from shame to empathy.


Empathy is NOT connecting to experience it IS connecting to the emotions that underpin experience


Empathy isn’t about fixing it’s the “brave choice to be with someone in their darkness- not racing to turn on the light so we can feel better”


Empathy Skills:

Skill 1- perspective taking- see the world as others see it – Be a learner not a knower

Skill 2- Non-Judgement: We tend to judge in areas we are susceptible to shame and where others are doing worse than us

Skill 3 – Understand another person’s feelings

Skill 4- Emotional literacy – to communicate your understanding of another person’s feelings

Skill 5 Mindfulness- Taking a balanced approach to negative emotions so we are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.


Empathetic miss – mistakes we make when trying to be empathetic

  1. Sympathy v empathy – don’t feel for them, feel with them

E.g. Someone in a well shouts   It’s dark and scary down here.  The other says I see you and climbs down knowing they have a way to get back out. I know what it’s like down there and you’re not alone.

Sympathy is oh sorry it does look bad and keep walking.  

  1. The gasp and awe – confirm how horrified you should be
  2. The mighty fall – someone is so disappointed that you aren’t perfect
  3. The block and tackle- look for someone else to blame
  4. The boots and shovel – need to make it better i.e. it’s not that bad
  5. The one up – If you think that’s bad ….

Empathy motto:  I agree to practice empathy, screw it up, circle back, clean it up and try again.


Talk to yourself the way you would speak to a loved one.


Shame resilience

1 Recognise Triggers-     Shame shields that we use include:

  • Moving away
  • Moving towards
  • Moving against- aggressive to others

2 Practising Critical Awareness. -reality check

3 Reaching out – share our experiences

4 Speaking Shame – be mindful of language


Who we are is how we lead.

Grounded confidence = rumble skills plus curiosity plus practice


The knower or ego in us races for an answer that may not address the problem. Curiosity says I’m in it for however long it takes to get to the heart of a problem



Values– way of being or believing what we hold most important

Steps to implement:

  1. We can’t live them if we can’t name them – ensure we can identify
  2. Taking values from bs to behaviour – what behaviours exemplify our values
  3. Empathy and self compassion


Tips for Giving feedback

  • Sit next to instead of across – puts the problem in front of us rather than between us
  • Ready to listen, ask questions and accept I don’t fully understand
  • Acknowledge what is done well not just mistakes
  • Recognise strengths
  • Hold accountable without shame and blame
  • Open to owning your part
  • Thank for efforts rather than criticisms
  • Talk about resolving problem will lead to growth
  • Model vulnerability and openness

How you accept feedback is important too!


Assumption of positive intent: where you extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others – rather than thinking the worst.


Living BIG – Boundaries, Integrity, Generosity


Integrity is choosing courage over comfort


BRAVING inventory – the factors that make up trust


Boundaries – you respect my boundaries and when not sure you ask. You are willing to say no

Reliability- you do what you say you will, don’t overpromise and deliver on commitments

Accountability – you own your mistakes, apologise and make amends

Vault- you don’t share info that is not yours to share i.e. I know my confidences are kept

Integrity – you chose courage over comfort, what is right over what is fun or easy. Live your values

No judgement- we can talk or ask for help without judgement

Generosity- you extend the most generous interpretation to intentions, words and actions


Resilience: Learning to rise


The reckoning– knowing we are emotionally hooked and getting curious- like thinking before you talk it’s feeling before you take a swing


Tactical breathing  I.e. 4 breaths and ask do I have enough info – will freaking out help?

Use this rather than negative actions such as chandelier in, bouncing heart, numbing heart, stockpiling hurt, overcompensating,, high centering.


In the absence of data, we make up stories. – I’m making this up tool…

Shitty first drafts are made from fears and insecurities and worst-case scenarios

Confabulation – lies told honestly


1 What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation- what assumptions am I making?

2 What more do I need to know about the others involved?

3 What questions do I need to ask to get info I need?

4 What is my role, what is underneath my response, what am I feeling?


Author: Donna Bruce