Book Summary: Dare To Lead by Brené Brown

Are you looking for a book summary of Dare To Lead By Brené Brown? You have come to the right place.

Last week, I finished reading this book and jotted down some key insights from Brené Brown.

You don’t have to read the whole book if you don’t have time. This summary will provide you with an overview of everything you can learn from this book.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

In this Dare To Lead summary, I’m going to cover the following topics:

What is Dare To Lead About?

In Dare to Lead, you learn how to find the inner courage to lead a great team. 

The author draws from his own experiences as a leadership coach, as well as recent research, to demonstrate how you can overcome fear of failure, harness your emotions, and become a daring leader in an increasingly competitive world.

Who is the Author of Dare To Lead?

Research professor Brené Brown is a specialist in courage and empathy at University of Houston. Daring Greatly, her 2012 book, was a New York Times best seller. 

Her TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” has been viewed over 50 million times and is one of the five most-viewed TED talks of all time.

Who is Dare To Lead For?

Dare To Lead is not for everyone. If you are the following types of people, you may like the book:

  • Those seeking new insights into business psychology
  • Leaders seeking a fresh perspective on how to engage their teams
  • Those trying to build their courage at work

Dare To Lead Book Summary


All over the world, managers and executives seek to become more effective leaders. Should you demonstrate your leadership by controlling subordinates? Should you change your job title to command more respect? It is imperative that you let go of all status, titles, and power plays if you want to become a better leader.

Take a journey to discover how the most courageous leaders think, feel, and act. We will examine how concepts such as trust, honesty, failure, and courage can teach us about daring leadership, as well as challenge conventional wisdom about how successful people work.

Additionally, you’ll learn how your values, emotions, and interpersonal relationships affect your effectiveness as a leader. Lastly, you’ll discover why, in a hostile work environment, you must still be vulnerable if you want to succeed.

Lesson 1: Vulnerability is not a weakness but an essential attribute for innovation

How do you feel vulnerable? Over the years, the author has asked this question to thousands of people, receiving responses that may sound familiar to you. When you get laid off from work, you feel vulnerable. 

It is like your first date after your difficult divorce, or when you start your first business. We all feel vulnerable when we are exposed to others and when faced with risk or uncertainty.

Although vulnerability is so common, there are some damaging myths surrounding it, especially that it equates to weakness.

You may feel anxious, uncertain, and prone to self-protection when you go through experiences that make you feel vulnerable, such as losing your job or putting yourself out there. However, there is no empirical evidence linking vulnerability with weakness. Acts of courage cannot be performed unless one first puts himself in a vulnerable position.

Still not convinced?

In 2014, the author asked a question to a room of special forces military personnel. The author explained to the tough, brave soldiers that vulnerability is the emotion that comes with risk and uncertainty, and then asked them if they had ever participated in or witnessed a courageous act that did not make them feel vulnerable. 

None of the soldiers were able to give a single example of courage in which vulnerability had not been present. 

When the audience focused on their actual experiences of courage, the myth of weakness and vulnerability crumbled.

It’s not just courage that requires vulnerability. In fact, vulnerability is at the core of human innovation and creativity. Why? In the creative process, there is so much uncertainty that it usually necessitates a healthy dose of failure along the way. 

The cultural implications are that a society that equates vulnerability with weakness will struggle to generate new ideas or fresh perspectives – even if some individuals will unavoidably go against the grain.

Amy Poehler, Golden Globe-winning actress and writer, points out that it is difficult to let yourself be vulnerable, and people who can do so are often society’s dreamers, thinkers, and creators.

Lesson 2: Courageous leaders seek and give honest feedback

Truth can hurt sometimes. During the early days of the author’s company, one of her employees requested a meeting with her to discuss some concerns. 

The author listened in disbelief as her employees lamented her poor time management skills and her habit of setting unrealistic deadlines that they often had trouble meeting.

Although her team’s criticisms were difficult to hear, the author was thankful for their honesty. Why? Her belief is that being clear is being kind, and to be unclear is unkind. 

In fact, communicating clearly and honestly, both at home and at work, is a simple yet transformative step that all leaders should take.

Research shows that the majority of us tend to avoid clarity in our daily interactions because we feel it’s more compassionate. But is it really?

We may tell ourselves we feed people half-truths to make them feel good, but really we do it to avoid confrontational and honest conversations that make us uncomfortable. Having clear, productive communication is far more useful and kinder. 

You may end up blaming them for failing to deliver if you fail to be clear about your expectations for a subordinate because it’s difficult.

After years of studying leadership, the author has learned that leaders need to spend a significant amount of time communicating about their subordinates’ feelings and fears. 

If they do not do this, they will spend even more time trying to manage the ineffective and unproductive behavior of their workforce.

Leaders can do a better job of soliciting feedback from subordinates when they really listen to them.

You should leave a lot of empty space after you have asked someone about their true feelings. In other words, don’t speak too much. Though this may feel awkward at first, have faith that they’ll reveal their true thoughts when they’re ready. 

When they start talking, don’t start mentally formulating a response right away. Listen to what they have to say instead. Remind yourself that they are being kind enough to be clear with you – return the favor by listening to them carefully.

Lesson 3: Leadership must be guided by core values

Often, the modern workplace can feel like a gladiatorial arena – a battle for supremacy requiring bravery, sweat, and tears, even if it isn’t life or death. Whenever we’re going through a difficult time, whether at work or at home, it’s tempting to throw up our hands and walk away.

Where can we find the strength to keep going? When faced with adversity, it is our values that push us to get up again and keep daring to give it our all.

We make decisions about what is important in our lives based on our values. The author found that the most courageous leaders were those who were clear about what their values were. In periods of uncertainty and vulnerability, their values served as a guiding light, a ‘North Star’ that guided them in dark times. 

The trust that their values would guide them through without compromising their integrity enabled them to take more risks. To be daring leaders, they had to know what was most important to them.

Consider this question: What are your core values?

The process of making a list of things that are very important to us may seem straightforward. The list becomes really useful when we cut it down to just two items. 

For example, the author focused on the key values of courage and faith. Why two? According to the author’s research, most leaders identify ten or more values based on hundreds of interviews with global executives. 

On the other hand, leaders who were most willing to demonstrate courage and experience vulnerability anchored themselves to no more than two. This makes a lot of sense – two values are applicable. 

If all the values on the less daring leaders’ long lists are equally important, then none are truly driving their behavior. As a result, their values become simply a list of words that make them feel good.

When times get tough, we should keep our two most important values close and let them guide our behavior.

Lesson 4: Trust is an important and multifaceted component of our working relationships

How many people do we truly trust, and how trustworthy are we? Incredibly, most people report that they trust only a small number of their colleagues, but that they are entirely trustworthy themselves. Perhaps we need to work on our trust issues.

However, we must first ask: What does the concept of trust mean? Researchers have identified seven behaviors that promote trust, which are referred to as BRAVING. BAVING can be a useful method for identifying areas of strength and improvement in working relationships with subordinates. Which behaviors are these?

Boundaries are represented by the B. Being trustworthy involves respecting the boundaries of others. When either party is unsure about the other’s boundaries, they inquire if something is okay, and the other feels free to refuse if it isn’t.

The R stands for reliability, or doing what we say we will do. As we work, this translates into understanding our capabilities and limitations so we aren’t overcommitting and underdelivering.

Accountability is represented by the letter A. Taking responsibility for our mistakes, apologizing for them, and making amends are important to us.

V for vault. In a sense, we are like a vault of personal information that has been shared with us by others over time. Trust involves not giving out information that does not belong to us. Others have to trust that their confidences will be kept and that we will not divulge their confidential information.

The I stands for integrity – choosing courage over comfort and doing what is right over what is easy, fun, or expedient. We must also practice the values we preach.

N stands for non-judgment, which means people do not have to worry about being judged for what they feel or for asking for help.

G stands for generosity, being consistently generous in our interpretations of others’ words, actions, and intentions. Our reputation as a trustworthy individual will increase if we always see the positive in others, rather than the negative.

To become an effective, trustworthy leader, you need to adopt these behaviors.

Lesson 5: Learning how to fail makes us more courageous

Whether you believe it or not, business leaders can learn a lot from skydivers. Aspiring skydivers must undergo numerous training sessions before they can hit the skies. The training includes jumping from ladders, which is the safest way for them to hit the ground. 

What can leaders learn from this? If you want to be brave, you should prepare yourself for bumpy landings. To put it another way, you should learn how to be resilient.

As expected, things are handled differently in business than in skydiving. Leadership coaches and leaders are generally aware of the importance of resilience training, but they usually teach these skills after the event has already occurred. 

It’s akin to telling newbie skydivers how to land properly after they’ve already landed, or worse, after they’ve already entered free fall.

There is, however, a better way. Timing is everything when it comes to teaching resilience skills to leaders. It is more likely that they will demonstrate courageous behavior if they are taught early on as part of a broader training program. Why? In other words, they are confident that they will be able to pick themselves up again if their bold behavior doesn’t pay off. 

Companies that fail to impart these resilience skills to their workforce are effectively discouraging their leaders, both present and future, from having courage.

The idea of teaching leaders how to fail from the start may cause some organizations to have low expectations. Quite the contrary is true. 

As part of the onboarding process for new recruits, the author makes it a priority to teach failure and resilience skills. This is the company’s way of telling new employees that bravery is expected, so failure is also expected occasionally.

It’s interesting to note that resilience isn’t a new concept. It is not uncommon to see company slogans encouraging leaders to “fall forward” and “fail fast.” 

When implemented at an early stage of a leader’s development, these slogans can do more harm than good without the support of a resilient skills program. 

Why? Leadership failures without resilience skills can lead to a double dose of shame – the shame of the initial failure, followed by the shame of failing to pick themselves up again after all the motivational slogans urging them to learn and move on.

Lesson 6: Perfectionism prevents us from improving ourselves and being courageous

Throughout childhood, we attempt to shield ourselves from vulnerable feelings like disappointment, hurt, and diminishment. We protect ourselves from the big bad world by building walls out of our behaviors, emotions and thoughts. 

We already know that in order to live and lead with courage, we need to let ourselves be vulnerable. We must let down our walls and recognize our protective thoughts and behaviors for what they really are: defense mechanisms.

Perfectionism is one of the most common forms of self-protection. Daring leaders must rid themselves of perfectionism. Let’s start by dispelling some of the myths surrounding this damaging phenomenon.

The most damaging myth of all is that perfection is about self-improvement and achieving excellence. Perfectionism is actually about trying to please others. Perfectionists are often raised in environments that encourage them to excel, including athletics and school. 

As a result, perfectionists develop damaging belief systems that influence their whole sense of self, anchoring it to accomplishments and brilliant performance.

The perfectionist is locked into an exhausting pattern of pleasing people, perfecting efforts, performing for others and proving themselves. A healthy drive for success, on the other hand, is motivated by asking yourself how they can improve. It’s a stark contrast to perfectionists who ask ‘what will others think of me?’

It is crucial to note that leaders who are obsessed with perfectionism often believe that this way of thinking will bring them success. Perfectionism has a darker side that goes well beyond the desire to please.

Researchers have found that perfectionism can lead to addiction, anxiety, and depression. In addition, perfectionists are more likely to miss opportunities and suffer from mental paralysis, which prevents them from participating fully in life. Why? They fear being criticised or not meeting the expectations of others, which prevents them from entering the messy arena of life, where healthy competition and striving for greatness take place.

If you want to be a daring leader, take off your perfectionism armor and step up to the plate. Even if you make mistakes, you will gain something valuable: the courage to succeed and lead.

Final Summary

When we are vulnerable, we are open to creativity and courage. 

If we let go of our perfectionistic tendencies and fear of failure, we will have the courage to improve ourselves and have difficult, important conversations with our colleagues. 

So if we are to become fearless leaders, we need to bring all of our emotions to the table.

Further Reading

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