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Daring to Lead


By Amy Thompson, Missouri Conference Lay Leader

If you know me well or heard me speak or lead a meeting, you are familiar with my interest in Brené Brown’s work. Her willingness to explore vulnerability, courage and finding our authentic selves is work that resonates with me. Many of us need to explore these areas to improve our personal lives and influence our leadership skills. As I consider the state of our church, the political and racial tension that exists, and how our communities will move forward in response to a pandemic, it seems important for us as leaders to explore our willingness to self-reflect on our leadership tendencies and to challenge ourselves to grow our leadership skills. It will take daring leadership to lead in this time!

In Brené Brown’s book Dare to Lead, she identifies armored leadership versus daring leadership. She identified 16 areas of armored leadership and provided 16 areas of daring leadership to counteract our armor’s hurtful, painful areas. Armored leadership is the thinking patterns and actions that we exhibit to protect ourselves in situations or experiences. It protects our ego, our sense of self-worth. It impacts our ability to recognize and manage emotions accurately. It keeps us from being vulnerable, from taking risks, from building trust and healthy cultures in our organizations. It perpetuates our tendencies to hide our true selves, to wear a mask of what we think we ought to be. It takes courage, vulnerability and self-reflection to be a daring leader.

To give you a taste of armored leadership versus daring leadership, let’s explore a few areas that Brené identifies.

Being a Knower and Being Right vs. Being a Learner and Getting It Right: Being a knower, having to be right, can be a heavy burden to carry. It can stifle the contributions of others on the team as they fear not being right, so they do not contribute. Instead, build your skills and tools for curiosity and learning. Acknowledge great questions and seek to find answers with members of your team.

Leading for Compliance and Control vs. Cultivating Commitment and Shared Purpose: The focus is on tasks and to-dos and catching someone that doesn’t complete tasks. This approach loses the goal of the larger purpose, causing others to feel work isn’t valued. The leader tends to hold on to power and authority rather than cultivating contribution and communicating the why. The daring leader will provide structure and space for people to understand the why so they can utilize their skills to contribute and feel safe.

Weaponizing Fear and Uncertainty vs. Acknowledging, Naming, and Normalizing Collective Fear and Uncertainty: In times of uncertainty, it is easy to raise fear and identify a common enemy. This is unhealthy leadership. Embrace the discomfort and uncertainty by naming it. Be available to fact-check any stories that are being told. Open up conversations for rumbling with the fear rather than avoiding it.

These armored leadership styles will have a negative impact as we navigate and lead in our churches. We need to consider how to be daring leaders and create cultures of courage as we move forward. I encourage you to take the daring leader assessment and read her book to extend your understanding of daring leadership. You can find the assessment on Brené Brown’s website under the tab labeled dare to lead hub.

I challenge you to form a book club with leaders in your church or seek out leaders in some area churches. Read the book together and explore how what you learn can be applied to your daily life and leadership roles. Finally, I challenge you to practice some of the exercises mentioned in the book to build your daring leadership style. As we lead into an uncertain future, our willingness to be daring, courageous and self-reflective will benefit our leadership in our communities and churches.