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Creating Successful Leaders

In her new book, Daring Greatlypsychologist and speaker Brené Brown shares a surprising revelation: courage comes from being vulnerable.

At first, this confused me. Isn’t courage about inner strength? About self-confidence and boldness? Where does vulnerability fit in a courageous life?

But Brown makes an important clarification early on: “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure everyday are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement.”

The act of living will always bring uncertainty, risk and the likelihood of being letdown. We are all vulnerable. So, our options are to either learn to deal with this, or to construct barriers trying to avoid it.

While we instinctively tend toward the latter as a way to fight against our imperfections, this is actually a sign of our “fear and disconnection.” Yet Brown says we can measure our courage by how fully we engage in the world despite the fact this makes us vulnerable.

We don’t have enough time to perfect ourselves or become immune to vulnerability. Yet even if we did, would it be worth sacrificing countless enriching life experiences just to avoid getting our feathers rustled every so often?

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”

Courage, then, results naturally from embracing our vulnerability. But what does this look like on a daily level?

1. Allow yourself (and others) room to fail. While it is important to have high standards, you shouldn’t set them too high so as to leave no space for messing up. Messing up is how we grow. Whether these are standards for yourself, for your friends, your children or your coworkers, be sure that you leave some wiggle room. Build your expectations around the fact that you and everyone else will at some point come up short. And be excited about this! For this is where true growth happens.

“When shame becomes a management style, engagement dies. When failure is not an option we can forget about learning, creativity, and innovation.”

2. Make decisions based on your own beliefs and convictions. …Not on how likely you think a decision will expose you to vulnerability. Stick to your what you believe in, and be aware that you’ll probably criticized. But true courage means acting in the manner you feel is best for you regardless of outside resistance.

3. Failure is not the end of the world, but the beginning of a breakthrough. When you do encounter moments of vulnerability, take it in stride. You’ll learn from this. You’ll be forced to tackle the problem differently. You’ll grow. Embracing this truth is a courage in and of itself; it demonstrates that you truly believe that you are worthy no matter how well you perform.

We all could use a little courage as the holiday season descends upon us. So stay tuned these next few weeks, as I’ll talk about ways to manage holiday-induced stress, methods of task delegation, and keeping the real purpose of the holidays in our sights in the midst of the busy season.

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live (New York: Gotham Books).

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