KLWIN Book Review: Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

According to this expert in the leadership industry, this one characteristic is your organization’s best predictor of success.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.: Brown, Brené: 9780399592522: Books

Prepare to take notes in the margins of Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts., the latest read by the Kruggel Lawton Women’s Initiative Network (KL WIN) book club. Our group enjoyed Brown’s practical guidance and fresh approach to leadership through a new lens; one of both vulnerability and courage.

With lunch in-hand, we met to dive into the multitude of examples in her book of how daring leadership requires courage because it asks us to be vulnerable. As Brown explains, having tough conversations such as giving or receiving feedback, collaborating with a team, and problem-solving together to meet deadlines can be dramatically changed if they are approached from a daring leadership perspective. If we choose to approach these situations with curiosity, courage, and clarity rather than pride, self-protection, and information-withholding (or “armor” as Brown refers to in her book), a whole new level of understanding and meaning can be uncovered from the context.

Our group latched on to a real-life example of what she called the “Ham fold-over debacle” which exemplified how during times of stress, even the smallest issues like a lack of lunchmeat can cause us to create stories in our minds that dramatize and skew reality. Pausing and getting really clear on an issue at hand can help avoid petty grievances that undermine our relationships. Brown recommends using story-telling tactics such as using the phrase “The story I’m telling myself” to acknowledge and verbalize our feelings to address them before we get carried away. In the accounting profession, where hard deadlines are the norm and collaboration is essential, communication with our co-workers is nonnegotiable. However, the level of authentic and useful feedback can sometimes vary.

Brown explains how having conversations that involve feedback – especially negative feedback - are often avoided or cut short because they tend to feel more like criticism and involve less-desirable emotions such as “fear, shame, grief, disappointment, and sadness.” Although these can sometimes be uncomfortable, she argues that tough conversations – just like the ones we have in our Kruggel Lawton office (i.e. engagement reviews, mentor meetings, and annual reviews) - these are critical for daring leadership because “vulnerability is the cradle of emotions and feelings that we crave. It is the birthplace of love, belonging and joy… [and] the cornerstone of courage-building.”

In other words, if we don’t thoughtfully participate in these conversations, we may be glossing over real-time problems, but we’re also missing out on the long-term building blocks of meaningful relationship. Empathizing with people around us, listening intently, getting curious – these are all tools we should be using to become daring leaders. Brown says it so succinctly: “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

Brown’s call for courage is loud and clear: we need braver leaders.  Inside and outside our workplaces, from our homes to our governments, we need to be adaptable to change, willing to have hard conversations, and put forth effort to be resilient in times of challenge and adversity. Ultimately, our amount of “courage is the best predictor of [our] ability to be successful… Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance.” In the end, “Courage is rebellion.”

If you would like more information on Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead or its accompanying resources, please visit

If you would like more information on Kruggel Lawton’s Women’s Initiative Network and book club, visit

About Kate Koval

Kate is a Nonprofit Management Consultant in our Client Accounting and Advisory Services team. She is experienced in bookkeeping, audit and tax services including preparation of Form 990s and consulting. She enjoys an active lifestyle with her husband, Matt and two young daughters.

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