Brene Brown, a University of Houston professor of social work, is one of my favorite authors and yet I’m always amazed by the paucity of women in academics who have read her books. Brown has one of the most viewed Ted talks in history in which she discusses leading with authenticity rather than power. Brene’s writing offers a way for women who have been berated to ‘toughen up’, ‘lean in’ and ‘life hack your way to doing more’ to foster creativity and leadership using a style that will potentially resonate more with women (and hopefully some men, too!).
In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene calls out all of the too-easy-to-engage-in behaviors we see in academics – cynicism, criticism, detachment, and cruelty – and coaxes readers to invest in their teams and jobs by sharing their vulnerability. If that sounds like a recipe for cultivating a workplace with uncomfortable oversharing, fear not. Brown pushes vulnerability as a means to know your strengths and weaknesses, developing better teams while maintaining your personal boundaries. While Brown has authored five books, Daring Greatly is a thoughtful place to start in trying to find a place of authenticity with the goal of creating more connected, creative, and caring teams.

At at time when we are all taking our work and work relationships so personally, Brown’s message is one of understanding your professional self and professional vulnerabilities. Adding the detachment that work is not personal allows readers to do a more meaningful deep dive into identifying scary parts of their professional vulnerabilities.

If you’re a parent, you’ll get an extra bonus with the last third of the book which speaks specifically about interacting with your children. Frankly, even if you aren’t a parent, Brene’s highlighted sections for ‘when you are ready to have a constructive conversation’ will resonate for frustrated bosses as well. For those who are looking for tangible next steps, Brene has also created Brave Leaders, which has an off-the-charts good newsletter and online video/workbook course that will set you back $150 but has scads of materials, questions you need to ask yourself and your team, and a wholly decent way to identify your institutional values.

Daring Greatly is available in paperback for the low-low price of $11. For book readers, you can easily crank thru the business section in a couple of evenings of reading. If, however, you listen to audiobooks, Brene’s emphasis on what you should attend to makes it easy to pause and reflect, take notes, and enjoy this on your ride into work, so I absolutely recommend the audiobook. Either way, put this one of your Amazon Wish List!

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