In her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brené Brown studies leaders and vulnerability and transforms the way we approach these concepts. Brené Brown argues that vulnerability is the “only path to courage” because it cultivates a willingness to face difficult conversations with an open mind.
Her definition of vulnerability inspires us to do the things we fear because, ultimately, when we embrace our fears, we open ourselves up to the world. Vulnerability is about honesty, truth-telling, and risking emotional exposure. How can we use this understanding of vulnerability in our daily lives?
Vulnerability and leadership have, until recent adjustments in our work culture, been seen as oppositional forces. Through Brown’s social work and extensive studies of human sociology, she paints a vastly different picture of strong leadership. In her estimation, vulnerability positively impacts a leader’s relationship with his/her team in several ways: it fosters authenticity, emotional connection, and innovation. We know how valuable authenticity is in building trust, which is also essential in competent leadership—you can’t lead people who don’t trust you to do your job.
There’s no success without the possibility of failure, and following Brown’s beliefs, entrepreneurship is the place where courage and fear meet. Entrepreneurial endeavors, by their very definition, require taking a huge risk whereby the chances of failure are high. Any enterprise, whether it’s a small dog daycare in San Francisco or a tech startup in Silicon Valley, is a measure of someone’s courage. To strive for greatness in the face of dubiousness and unease is what enables leaders to innovate and advance society.
Brené Brown believes leaders and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin. Her convictions on this matter are best summarized in the following statement from her aforementioned book: “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose.”