Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Dare to Lead summary

Using research, stories and examples, Dare to Lead provides a road map for being brave in your life and your work, having tough conversations, and showing up every day with your whole heart.

Dare to Lead notes & quotes

Here are my notes on Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. My notes are casual and include what I believe are the essential concepts, ideas, and insights from the book, along with direct quotes from the author.

  • Time is our most valuable and un-renewable resource.
  • Vulnerability is not about winning or losing but having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.
  • Daring greatly means getting your ass kicked.
  • Courage means knowing failure, disappointment, and heartbreak.
  • Our obstacles are our freedom.
  • Vulnerability is the gateway to almost everything we want in life, especially courage.
  • Listen with the same passion you want others to listen to you.
  • Courage combines four skills: rumbling with vulnerability, living our values, braving trust, and learning to rise.
  • The more vulnerable we are, the greater our courage.
  • “Courage is contagious.”
  • People are encouraged to bring their whole selves and unarmored hearts when they feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.
  • Providing a safe place where a child can belong often changes the trajectory of their life.
  • Daring knows you will fail eventually but still going all in.
  • Vulnerability arises from uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.
  • Nothing in the research indicates vulnerability is a weakness.
  • Bravery is difficult when we allow others to define us.
  • The idea of needing no one goes against our very nature to socialize, connect with and rely on others.
  • “There’s probably not a single act at work that requires more vulnerability than holding people responsible for ethics and values….”
  • Stripping uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure from relational experience is the opposite of courage.
  • Trust is needed to risk vulnerability, and vulnerability is required to build trust.
  • We earn trust in the smallest of moments like paying attention, listening, and gestures of care and connection.
  • We’re either becoming closer or moving further apart in any interaction with others.
  • “Trust and vulnerability grow together, and to betray one is to destroy both.”
  • Psychological safety breaks with judgment, unsolicited advice, interrupting, and sharing outside the relationship or group.
  • When someone is in need, you can ask, “What does support from me look like?”
  • Setting boundaries is communicating what’s okay and what’s not.
  • Vulnerability is at the core of all emotions. Seeing vulnerability as weakness is seeing all feelings as weakness.
  • “We are not necessarily thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.” - Antonio Damasio
  • “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
  • Giving people half-truths is unkind and about making ourselves feel more comfortable.
  • Not communicating expectations and then holding someone accountable is unkind.
  • When an emotion like fear drives self-protection, the pattern is predictable:
  • I’m not enough.
  • They’ll think less of me or even use it against me if I’m honest.
  • No one else is honest, so why should I be honest and risk myself?
  • Others have issues, but they’re not willing to be honest.
  • Their limitations are causing me to act this way, but they’re blaming me.
  • Actually, I’m better than them.
  • It’s vital to keep the faith while confronting the brutal reality of your immediate situation.
  • Finding the courage to enter the cave is not about securing your treasure but facing your fears to find the power and wisdom to serve others.
  • Leaders have two choices: invest a little time attending to fears and feelings or a lot of time managing ineffective and unproductive behaviors.
  • Listening is like giving people white space.
  • Allow people their emotions like anger, but don’t take responsibility for them. If their behavior is not acceptable, set boundaries.
  • “Daring leadership is ultimately about serving other people.”
  • “In the past, jobs were about muscles, now they’re about brains, but in the future they’ll be about the heart.” - Minouche Shafik
  • Wholeheartedness is living with an unarmored heart. It’s a heart that’s liberated and vulnerable enough to love and be loved and broken and hurt.
  • “…we depend on our emotional heart to keep vulnerability coursing through the veins of courage…
  • Ego locks away the heart and drives the inner hustler to pretend, perform, please, and perfect to get gold stars, acceptance, and approval.
  • Shame makes us feel flawed and question whether we deserve love, belonging, and connection.
  • Empathy is the antidote to shame.
  • The human heart is our most significant and most unique asset.
  • Top forms of protecting the heart: perfectionism, foreboding joy, and numbing.
  • “Perfectionism is other-focused: What will people think? Perfectionism is a hustle…and a function of shame.”
  • Perfection says: “If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of blame, judgment, and shame.”
  • “Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we feel… it’s beauty and fragility and deep gratitude and impermanence all wrapped up in one experience. When we can’t can’t tolerate that level of vulnerability, joy actually becomes foreboding…”
  • Practicing gratitude allows us to experience joy without foreboding.
  • Recognition: how to engage, satisfy, and retain employees.
  • Each of us numbs and distracts ourselves to avoid painful feelings. But cutting ourselves off from painful feelings also severs our ability to feel positive feelings like love, joy, and belonging. Painful emotions and pleasant emotions come as a package.
  • Our goal is live with grounded confidence and boundaries while staying vulnerable and curious. In other words, we are being fierce and kind.
  • The antidote to despair is cultivating hope through the following steps: goal (where I want to go), pathway (how to get there), and agency (I can do this).
  • “At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized.”
  • Paint done: When you “paint” a picture of what “done” looks like.
  • TASC: Task (you own it), Accountability (necessary authority given to be accountable), Success suet up for success with time, resources, clarity), Checklist (check-in).
  • Familiar playbook of unconscious (authoritarian) leaders: control people and get them to do what you want by keeping them in fear and giving them an enemy responsible for their anxiety.
  • People want to be a part of something and experience connection, but they don’t want to compromise their values and integrity to do it.
  • The truth is increasingly rare, which is why we value it so much.
  • Hurt mostly comes from our family of origin and shows up at work by seeking approval and acceptance from our colleagues.
  • “Daring leadership is leading from heart, not hurt,” and comes from how we respond to our pain and hurt, past and present.
  • Vulnerability opens us up to feelings of shame—feeling “less than” or unworthy of love and belonging—so the ego will do anything to avoid humiliation.
  • Researchers refer to shame, the “never good enough,” and the most primitive emotion” as “the master emotion”.
  • Shame is the fear of disconnection.
  • Everyone, except those who lack the capacity for empathy and human connection, experiences shame.
  • The more we talk about shame, the less control it has over us.
  • When we feel shame, we tend to go into a rage or stay small to stay safe.
  • “I define narcissism as the shame-based fear of being ordinary.”
  • Emotional literacy helps us develop shame resilience.
  • Empathy is not jumping into someone else’s hole or taking responsibility for their struggles.
  • Empathy is infinite, and the more we give, the more we all have.
  • “Empathy is at the heart of connection.”
  • Connection is what heals us.
  • Curiosity is the key to working with vulnerability and other challenging emotions.
  • Judgment comes from areas where we lack the grounded confidence of self-worth.
  • We cannot work through emotions unless we can name and articulate them.
  • Process of empathy:
  • Be the listener and student, not the knower.
  • Stay out of judgment.
  • Try to understand the underlying emotion.
  • Communicate your understanding of that emotion.
  • When practicing empathy, you don’t have to fix the person’s issue or say the perfect thing. Just do your best.
  • “Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love.”
  • Empathic phrases:
  • Oh, man, I feel you.
  • I know that feeling, and it sucks.
  • Me too.
  • I see you. You’re not alone.
  • I’ve been in a similar place, and it’s tough.
  • I think a lot of us experience that. Either we’re all normal, or we’re all weird. Either way, it’s not just you.
  • I understand what that’s like.
  • Shame shields:
  • Moving away: Withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets.
  • Moving toward Seeking to appease and please.
  • Moving against: Trying to gain power over others by being aggressive and using shame to fight shame.
  • “Grounded confidence is the messy process of learning and unlearning, practicing and failing, and surviving a few misses.”
  • “..leadership is the ability to thrive in the ambiguity of paradoxes and opposites.” - Dheeraj Pandey
  • “Curiosity is correlated with creativity, intelligence, improved learning and memory, and problem solving.”
  • “A value is a way of being or believing that we hold most important.”
  • We can only have one set of values, and context doesn’t change our values.
  • The goal is to pick the two values that you hold most important. The values I hold most dear are integrity and humanity.
  • Integrity is “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.”
  • Brave leaders say: “I see you. I hear you. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m going to keep listening and asking questions.”
  • “The most important seats in the arena…are reserved for empathy and self-compassion.”
  • Resentment is a barometer for when we stay quiet to avoid conflict, put work before wellbeing, and don’t set good boundaries.
  • “Spirituality is the deep human longing to experience the transcendent in our ordinary life—it’s the expectation to experience the extraordinary in the ordinary, the miraculous in the mundane, and the sacred camouflaged in the profane.”
  • The foundational skill of assuming the best in people is setting and maintaining boundaries.
  • The foundational belief of positive intent is that people are doing their best.
  • Those most generous, compassionate, and skilled at assuming good intentions in others are the most boundaried.
  • “I’ve never done anything meaningful in my life that wasn’t hard and that did not take time.”
  • The most common way leaders determine who to trust and give more responsibility to is those who ask for help.
  • Trusting others starts with trusting ourselves.
  • Risking falling is challenging without the skills the get back up.
  • Those with the most resilience use some form of these sentences:
  • The story I’m telling myself…
  • The story I make up…
  • I make up that…
  • Having the courage to walk into our story lets us write the ending.
  • Emotions show up in our bodies. We call emotions feelings because we feel them in our bodies.
  • “Living, growing up,, working, or worshipping on eggshells creates huge cracks in our sense of safety and self-worth.”
  • Anxiety is one of the most contagious emotions.
  • Those most skilled at calmness cite breathing and curiosity as the practices they rely on.
  • We make up stories in the absence of data. After all, stories are just patterns.
  • To the mind, nothing just happens. The mind makes meaning by manufacturing stories from patterns.
  • Wisdom comes from seeing the gap between the mind’s stories and reality.
  • “Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave and afraid. At the exact same time.”

Related Resources

Here is a list of resources, including authors, books, websites, podcasts, and concepts mentioned in Dare to Lead, which may be helpful for further learning.

People

  • Harriet Lerner
  • Jennifer Louden, author
  • C.R. Snyder, researcher
  • Rob Bell, theologian
  • Martin Luther King
  • Dr. Stuart Brown, psychiatrist
  • Tamara Ferguson, Heidi Eyre, and Michael Ashbaker
  • Donald Klein
  • Susan Mann
  • Kristin Neff
  • Linda Harling, Stone Center at Wellesley
  • June Jordan, poet
  • Dheeraj Pandey
  • Stéfan Larsson
  • Dr. Sanée Bell
  • Brent Ladd, Purdue University
  • James Pennebaker, researcher

Books and Publications

  • Making Change Happen: Power by Just Associates
  • The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard
  • Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It by Ian Leslie
  • The Psychology of Curiosity by George Lowenstein
  • The Thin Book of Trust by Charles Feltman
  • The Dance of Connection by Harriet Lerner
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall
Thanks for reading.  You can get more insights into the self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering in my email newsletter. Each week, I share a popular book summary or an in-depth article with practical ideas on personal freedom and showing up as yourself with courage, curiosity, and self-compassion.
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