“Whether you are in a leadership role or not, you are a leader,” said Leah Brown, Certified Dare to Lead™ facilitator, in a members-only webinar this week presented by Trammell Crow Company. You may be a leader in your industry, your family, your community, or elsewhere. What defines leadership is “trying to show up as our very best self and bring others along with us,” she said.
The facilitator led a discussion – based on the influential work of researcher and academic Brené Brown – about how to master the art of tough conversations, lean into vulnerability, and stay curious and generous.
What holds us back from being a leader varies from person to person, Brown explained to webinar participants. Common causes are the inability to have tough conversations, perfectionism, or difficulty dealing with others’ fears and feelings. To lead, we must open ourselves to feeling vulnerable. However, many of us equate vulnerability with weakness, making it very challenging to take that essential step.
“Vulnerability is the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure,” Brown said. “It’s showing up when you can’t control the outcome.” In this era of COVID-19, she said, that might sound familiar!
In the workplace, Brown said, how we perceive others can be like the 10% of an iceberg that is visible above the surface – we are only seeing a very small piece of the whole picture. Especially when people are feeling vulnerable, we may see that being expressed as anger or shutting down. Sometimes those feelings can be expressed through behaviors like blaming, bullying, comparison, discrimination, harassment, nostalgia, perfectionism, self-worth tied to productivity, and more.
You don’t have to wait for someone else to deal with these behaviors before you address them yourself, Brown said. Standing up as a leader can mean saying, “That has not been my experience with that person,” when a colleague is being criticized, or shutting down post-meeting vent sessions by saying, “We already talked about that in the meeting. If we need to discuss it again, let’s put it on the agenda for next time.”
Brown introduced the concept of a rumble: a discussion, conversation or meeting defined in part by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, and to take a break and circle back when necessary. “Rumble starters” include phrases like, “Tell me more,” “That’s not my experience,” and “Help me understand.” The participants strive to be active listeners, to stay out of judgement, and to be mindful in paying attention to what’s happening in the conversation and any emotions that are coming up.
“We have to be generous in our assumptions,” Brown said. “What this means is that I assume if I am doing my best every day, I assume that you are doing your best every day.” And as a leader, we not only try to do our best – moving forward, stepping out boldly, being vulnerable – but strive to bring others along with us.