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Reviewed by Kathy Cunningham, Founder and President Advanced Marketing Strategies

I’m always amazed at how much I learn from listening to a Brené Brown book. In Dare to Lead, I learned about communication with others, personal responsibility, and the exploration of human behavior and how it manifests itself in work, home and friendships. It is about emotional intelligence, and as I wondered out loud, “Why isn’t there a class in every grade of school that teaches this stuff?” our Vice President, Utahna Hadden, replied, “My 9-year-old son’s school has started teaching and rewarding skills like empathy and courage!”

Well it’s about time, right?

I often listen (and re-listen) to Brené on the way to work. I feel this sets up the day for meaningful communication, better focus, and phenomenal results. I chose four of my favorite concepts from Dare to Lead for this review.



In Dare to Lead Brené recommends we ask ourselves and our teams three questions:

  1. What do you need to show up and do the work?
  2. What will get in the way of you showing up and doing the work?
  3. What does support look like?

This works for all relationships (work, spouse, kids, friends).

In Dare to Lead, we learn about ten behaviors and cultural issues that leaders identified as “getting in the way of” showing up and doing good work in organizations across the world. Here are three that resonated with me the most:

  1. When something goes wrong, individuals and teams are rushing into ineffective or unsustainable solutions rather than staying with problem identification and solving. When we fix the wrong thing for the wrong reason, the same problems continue to surface. It’s costly and demoralizing.
    • Brené shares an Einstein quote that goes something like this: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 50 minutes defining and understanding the problem and 10 minutes on the solution.”
  2. Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind. Sometimes speaking the truth feels like we are being unkind, especially when sharing difficult information or feedback. But in reality, dancing around the truth is unkind. When we avoid stating the truth—when we are vague or ambiguous under the guise of being kind—it is often because we are trying to lessen the discomfort for ourselves, not for the other person. Direct, honest, straightforward communication is kind. Sidestepping the truth doesn’t serve a useful purpose for anyone involved.
  3. Not enough people are taking smart risks or creating and sharing bold ideas to meet changing demands and the insatiable need for innovation.


Rumbling is a discussion or conversation willing to lean into vulnerability in order to confront the issue head on. Brené’s book has lots of exercises, role-playing, personal and team activities like exploring the concept of “Rumbling” and having hard conversations, or dealing with difficult situations.


 01. The story I make up . . .

02. I’m curious about . . .

 03. Tell me more.

 04. That’s not my experience (instead of “You’re wrong about her, him, them, it, this . . .”).

 05. I’m wondering . . .

06. Help me understand . . .

07. Walk me through . . .

08. We’re both dug in. Tell me about your passion around this.

09. Tell me why this doesn’t fit/work for you.

10. I’m working from these assumptions—what about you?

11. What problem are we trying to solve?

Additionally, I love her definition of “Delta”.

 • The delta is what we learn during the rumble when we compare the story we makeup and the truth.

 • By rumbling with our stories, we can find wisdom and meaning in the delta.


Another exercise is focused on Values. Using the list of values on page 188 of Dare to Lead, or online at

• A value is a way of being or belief that we hold most important.

• Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk—we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs.

• Our values are what give us strength when we are in the arena; often, they are what compel us to enter the arena in the first place.

• Establishing clarity of values, and living into those values, is one of the four essential skill sets of being a daring leader.

Brené recommends we choose two values—the beliefs that are most important to you, that help you find your way in the dark, that fill you with a feeling of purpose. To help you select your values, ask yourself the following questions:

Does this define me?

Is this who I am at my best?

Is this a filter that I use to make hard decisions?

Brené shares with us that her values are FAITH and COURAGE.

In practicing her value of faith, Brené tries to see the face of God in everyone. In practicing her value of courage, she explains how she chooses courage over comfort which may mean standing up for what she believes even when it is not popular or leaning into tough conversations or situations with courage and truth.

FUN FACTOiD: Brené tells a funny story of how she discovered in practicing courage that the “sting” of saying something courageous only lasts 8 seconds.

Brené recommends that we ask these take notes for each of our values as follows:

1. What are the three behaviors that support your value?

2. What are three slippery behaviors that are outside your value?

3. What’s an example of a time when you were fully living into this value?


Brené teaches us that empathy consists of five skills: perspective taking, being nonjudgmental, understanding the other person’s feelings, communicating your understanding, and mindfulness. She also points out how easy it is to do this incorrectly.

 • Empathy isn’t about fixing. It’s the brave choice to be with someone in their darkness—not to race to turn on the light so we feel better.

 • Empathy builds trust and increases connection.

• When it comes to empathy, it is difficult to always get it right. It’s a matter of the right person, at the right time, on the right issues.

Brené gives some fantastic personal examples that help us to understand how to do empathy right and what it looks like when done incorrectly.

• There are six common types of empathic misses:

  1. Empathy Miss #1: Sympathy vs. Empathy
  2. Empathy Miss #2: The Gasp and Awe
  3. Empathy Miss #3: The Mighty Fall
  4. Empathy Miss #4: The Block and Tackle
  5. Empathy Miss #5: The Boots and Shovel
  6. Empathy Miss #6: If You Think That’s Bad…

I recommend this book, and the worksheets Brené provides, to anyone that wants to have meaningful conversations, get more done, and live your best life. Going back again and again to this book on a regular basis keeps these concepts top of mind and allows us to practice the concepts in everyday real life.

And remember everyone is a leader and should dare to lead greatly, and lead great lives!

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