This year Brené Brown released a book called Dare to Lead, a business version of her two landmark books Daring Greatly and Rising Strong.  Her research has uncovered how having the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, and Dare to Lead emphasizes vulnerability in leadership more specifically.

I have been facilitating this work for about six years and was thrilled to see it adapted for business.   After conducting workshops with several groups recently, I am observing the impact that courage, and vulnerability can have on organizations.

A number of people have pulled me aside this year after participating in one of my Dare to Lead  workshops telling me how the training had, despite their previous uncertainty around the topic of vulnerability, turned out to be incredibly helpful. 

In fact, one participant contacted me after completing a recent training to tell me that she had been contemplating leaving her job but the work in Dare to Lead™  has encouraged her to lean into vulnerability and helped her to effectively communicate with her current boss. They have since been able to connect on a much deeper level and share how they feel, allowing her to ask for what she needed in order to stay with the company. 

What a great endorsement of the work – it saved someone’s job!

In the book, Brené Brown shares that her research has uncovered that it’ s not fear that gets in the way of us being courageous in business – it’s armor.

Armor is a metaphor used to describe those behaviors, emotions, actions, and words that individuals have developed throughout their lives to protect themselves in uncomfortable and stressful situations.  When we are “armored up” we are not willing to rumble with vulnerability. The problem is that these defense mechanisms, keep us from connecting with other people.

In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown says that “Who you are, is how you lead” and I agree. I spend a lot of time working with clients to improve their leadership presence, and I often share Brené Brown’s work with them.  More recently, I have also started telling them about what one of my friends in Human Resources says. She describes the front page of a job description as what you do in your role, and the flip side is who you need to BE.

The doing is the easy part, it’s the being that is difficult.

We are living in a time when many organizations are experiencing explosive growth, hiring countless new people, and undergoing rapid change. This type of environment, demands vulnerability to develop the collaborative relationships and networks required for innovation, and managing change and to do that you have to be someone that can connect with other people.

So who are you? Who are you “being” every day?  What armor are you wearing that blocks you from being able to connect with your team? Who you are and how you connect with other people, is, in essence, is the key to courageous leadership.

One of the hardest things for managers or directors to do is gain the trust and commitment of would-be followers. Many of the people that I coach believe that they need to have all of the answers and must not show weakness as a leader. The fear of being vulnerable or appearing as if they do not know what they are doing drives them to put our armor on. When a leader maintains distance by keeping their armor on all of the time at work, it’s difficult for others to be vulnerable and to drop theirs.

So what does your armoring up process include?

Getting curious and exploring what your armor looks like is the first step. Think about your body language, words, thoughts, and go-to behaviors when you are in the throes of something stressful or uncomfortable. Becoming aware of your protection mechanisms will help you to recognize when you are becoming armored up.

So how do you drop your armor and lean into vulnerability?  

Start by observing what hooks you and what situations cause you to assemble your armor.  Armor often shows up and creates resistance to new ways of doing things and new ways of being.  Recognizing when other people are gathering theirs is next. Once you become more aware of your own and other people’s reactions, you can start to get curious and to approach conversations in a new, more productive and vulnerable way.

Brené Brown defines a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability without our armor as a “rumble,” and she offers several conversations starters and tools to help you get started and practice. 

It’s not easy –you cannot get to vulnerability without dropping your armor, and as she says in the book,

“You cannot get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability -Embrace the Suck.” 


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Through coaching, coaching for learning and development, mentoring, one-on-one, and group training we assist in building trust and increasing collaboration. We help individuals move beyond their personal or professional obstacles to help them achieve a better future.

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