Dr. Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly

Dr. Brene Brown, whom I’ve dubbed “The Goddess of Vulnerability,” led a keynote address on Leadership and Vulnerability at the Inc. 5000 Conference held in Phoenix, AZ in October 2014.  Dr. Brown’s topic was Daring Greatly.  She took this topic from a Theodore Roosevelt quote that she heard and made her personal mantra.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Upon hearing the title of the speech, I felt those two words, vulnerability and leadership, created an oxymoron.  I never thought of vulnerability as a quality a leader should possess; however, upon hearing Dr. Brown’s viewpoint, I now agree that every leader should have a measure of vulnerability within them.  Whether or not they choose to show it is completely different.

“There is nothing comfortable about being a leader.  You should be in the arena getting your ass kicked,” quoted Dr. Brown.  Leaders who are extremely comfortable are not really great leaders as they are not reaching their full potential.  We must stretch outside our comfort zones in order to create new products and services.  If we continue to do the same old thing, and sell the same old services, we will remain stagnant and stuck.  Only through true innovation and stretching our dreams – taking risks – will our businesses soar and we truly lead.

A few quotes from Dr. Brown were vital to changing my point of view.  Hopefully, these quotes will lead to a topic of discussion even if you disagree:

  • “When you don’t care what people think, you lose the ability to be vulnerable.” This is particularly true with business owners.  We must take pride in our work, our products and what we deliver to our customers.  In order to do so, we must care whether or not the customer will like what we give them and will be happy with our output.
  • “When people share when they are vulnerable, don’t use it against them.” The ultimate betrayal is when someone opens up to us and give us a piece of information that they normally would not give.  But in a moment of feeling that we care, and their being vulnerable, they will share with the hope that we can be trusted with that information.  Using it against them, betrays their trust. We tend to see vulnerability and trust as stupidity. For example, we ask ourselves “why would I hire that person after they shared that info with me?”
  • “We make up stories about people and situations using limited data points.” When we don’t get the full story from our clients, customers, family or friends, we create “what if” scenarios and start to guess and impose our own thoughts about situations. When someone doesn’t return our call, we make up all kinds of reasons as to why.
  • “Joy is the hardest emotion to feel because we wait for the other shoe to drop.” So we don’t celebrate the little or big moments because we continue to see doom around the corner.  I am particular familiar with this emotion.  Recently, we cautiously celebrated having a great year and surpassing our 2014 goals by September.  My business partner and I discussed whether or not we should celebrate because the year isn’t over yet and we might have a downturn in Q4 to regret the celebration.  I finally embraced being thankful for having a fantastic year as that will not change thru year end.
  • “We should have an attitude of gratitude to feel true joy.” When we surrender ourselves to saying thanks, we can be happy with our accomplishments. Be thankful for what we feel are setbacks – layoffs mean we get a chance to dare greatly and do the things that we would never have an opportunity to do…go back to school, spend time with our families, try another job in a different industry, etc.
  • “The difference between entitlement and privilege is gratitude.” Entitled people don’t know gratitude – it’s an expectation.  We see this in our children and in ourselves.  Be grateful when you ask a leader for advice or mentoring and they take time to give it to you.  We are not entitled to their time – it is a privilege to have it.

I will continue to think about things that will allow me to Dare Greatly.  What can I do to move out of my comfort zone to become a great leader?  What can you do?