While the term “leading wholeheartedly” might strike some as ethereal, companies and organizations studying teamwork find that their highest performing teams follow this mode of operation. Google researchers, for example, have found that “psychological safety” ranks as the first criterion for an effective team at the tech company.

Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and the Founder and CEO of both Brave Leaders INC and Courageworks, has offered organizational leadership training to the White House, the CIA, the Military, corporations and educational institutions. She trains leaders on working and leading in a more authentic and psychologically sound way.

Brown said, “I would say there is a deep yearning for being more wholehearted,” in corporate work environments. She said she has received hundreds of invitations to speak within the business sector — from Fortune 100 companies to small, family-owned entrepreneurial businesses. She said, “People want to be able to show up at work in a meaningful way. They want to lead from the heart.”

Brown, who calls herself a “researcher-storyteller”, has inspired millions of people to live their lives more bravely and authentically. Her work examines sensitive topics as shame and empathy and has shed new light on the human experience, uncovering through her data that joy actually stems from vulnerability. While we love to believe that we are rational creatures, Brown emphasized that, at the end of the day, emotion drives our decision-making process. She said, “while thinking is tied up in the trunk.”

Brown said over the last 15 years, healthier workplaces have become more desired, if not more commonplace. She noted, “I’ve seen a trend toward people wanting to show up differently. I’m seeing for the first time, this new, real clarity around the fact that there is a good ROI in investing in courage building skills for people.”

“We realized through research that courage is a teachable skill set. A lot of time, it is holding people responsible. Kindness is inherent, as is being loving, or patient. But to be courageous and vulnerable is a skill set — trust, vulnerability, clarity of value, and rising skills — give us the ability to get back up. It’s about embracing the skills.”

Toward more courageous work environments

Leading teams in culture change is a daunting task, but Brown says, “People are ready for it. The scarcity we see in our nation is also reflected in our homes. Scarcity culture is, ‘What or who am I supposed to be afraid of?’ and ‘Whose fault is it?’ What falls out of that culture is shame and disengagement. You have to move people intentionally from never enough to enough. That requires a lot of work.”

She encourages leaders to recognize that, “we cannot continue to lead from B.S. narratives that we’ve made up to protect ourselves.”

Here’s what Brown had to say about the four elements of courage building, which are used to train leaders on courage:

· Vulnerability — “You have to be willing to be show up and be seen. If you can’t take the armor off, you can’t change.”

· Trust — “You have to start building trust through a very specific behavioral approach.”

· Clarity of values — “When you ask people to get clear on their top one or two values, what people see quickly is, ‘I can’t live into this value, without vulnerability and courage.’”

· Rising skills — “You need the ability to get back up when you fail and experience heartbreak.”

Brown suggests inviting family, friends, and colleagues into the process when they see it is working for you. “The best way to really bring change to a group is to inspire people through a change in your own behavior. Do your work and inspire people… What not to do is tell people what they need to do to change.”

To apply to Brown’s courage building process in leadership, check out her Daring Leadership: The Four Pillars of Courage course at www.braveleadersinc.com.

Originally published at medium.com


  • Heather Bowen Ray

    Consultant and technical advisor for behavior-related health and wellness programs. Insatiably curious about social psychology and social change.

    Thrive Global

    Heather is a healthy habits coach and consultant to behavior-related health and wellness programs. She works with inspiring individuals who are working hard to overcome specific barriers to change. Heather's experience includes in-house and on-call work for advertising and communications agencies and stems from a 15+ year social change career based in Washington DC. She has instructed university-level communications courses and has trained hundreds of professionals and university students. She earned an MS in Marketing at Johns Hopkins University and a BS in Journalism from the University of Kansas. She contributes to Thrive Global and is a Precision Nutrition certified level one coach (PN1). Heather lives and works in Boulder, Colorado.