Braver And Bolder Leaders

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This is the business world that I long for.

How about you? I got to know Brene Brown before she gave her first major TED Talk on shame and vulnerability. It was serendipitous. We didn’t know each other. I had not seen her TEDx Talk (The Power of Vulnerability) at that point. We just happened to sit next to one another and started up a conversation (I had no idea that she would be giving her now-famous Listening To Shame talk the next day). By the end of our conversation (which happened back in 2012), I thought I was in love with this person. I thought I found my best friend. I thought I found someone who both “gets me,” and someone whose own story I could not wait to watch unfold. Her husband, Steve, was sitting on the opposite side of her. As we talked and connected, he looked over at me with this look in his eye that said, “yeah… that happens… I get it.” Brene Brown was not a global sensation or Oprah-famous (at that point), but it was obvious to me that this was her path. She walks that path to this day.

All leaders must listen.

Brene’s brand new book, Dare To Lead – Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts, was published yesterday. I’m about 1/4 of the way through it. It is already tattered with notes and highlights. What Brene did for shame, vulnerability and being brave, she is about to do for business and leadership. But leaders have to listen. Leaders have to read this book. Leaders have to do what this book says. In business, most of us are (or should consider ourselves) leaders.  

Who are these leaders? Here’s what Brene writes:

“I want to live in a world with braver, bolder leaders, and I want to be able to pass that kind of world on to my children. I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential… And if you want to call these ‘soft skills’ after you’ve tried putting them into practice — go for it. I dare you. Until then, find a home for your armor, and I’ll see you in the arena.”

About the armor and the arena…

Brene continues to muse on the famous quote from a speech that Theodore Roosevelt gave in 1910. She has used it in her previous books, and it has become both a platform and battlecry for people of all walks of life. Now, more than ever, it’s time to push this quote deeper into the business world…

“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.”

Your business will not innovate, grow or dominate if it can’t take risks. Risks require us to have the courage to show up, know that we will fail, but we will keep on keeping on.

What might taking risks looks like. How can we see the rewards of taking risks? Serendipity is a strange beast. Last night, as I was gobbling up the pages of Dare To Lead, a friend (Daniel Lemin, co-author of the recently published business book, Talk Triggers, with Jay Baer), posted the video below on Facebook. The context for posting it was around public speaking, taking risks and doing this while under tremendous pressure. We know the movie, The Greatest Showman, as a box office sensation, but no movie starts that way. Getting a musical turned into a major film is no easy feat. This is not just a behind-the-scenes video. This is actual footage from New York City, where the cast gathered not for a standard read-through, but to workshop the movie with the film studio and other executives. This moment – this run-through of the script and music – was done for one reason (and one reason only): if things went well, the studio would make the movie. This is the moment of decision. We know the outcome. The movie went on to be a box office sensation. The story within this video may be more magical than the movie itself. Watch this performance. Watch this performer (standing ovation for Keala Settle). Watch her interaction towards the end with Hugh Jackman. More importantly, watch the cast, the fellow musicians and everyone around her. Watch it multiple times. Leaders are not always the person at the top of the company. Leaders are – more often than not – the person who has the empathy, emotion, drive, skill and vulnerability to push for a result. A unique result. A moment in time.

When a leader truly leads… they make it very easy for everyone else to follow (or, more accurately, to be on their team). The world needs more brave leaders. This is us. This is me.