First Comes Dare, Then Comes Truth: Reflecting on Brené Brown LIVE

Like most people, I’ve wanted to be friends with research professor Dr Brené Brown ever since I saw the 2010 TEDx talk on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ that catapulted her name into 42 million households. I’ve imagined swirling a glass of wine over dinner as we chat through all the nuances of modern society and cross-check them against her extensive research. 

Good news is, I pretty much got my wish. If by ‘friends’ you mean being one in a 2000-person audience and by ‘conversation’ you mean quietly listening to a keynote presentation. Same thing, right?

Last week, a few of us from Apparent attended the Brené Brown LIVE Growth Faculty workshop; a half-day whirlwind of poignant points hurling at you faster than you could write them down. Brown delivered on topics such as embracing vulnerability, the skillsets of courage and being kind by being clear – all in her usual humble, hilarious, no-bullshit flava. 

She dropped bombs like these: 

“In the absence of data, we make up stories. Human beings need to make meaning out of experience.”

(Given my tendency to philosophise even the most mundane details of my day, this point landed like a dagger to the heart [on sleeve].) 

“Put the feedback in front of both of you. You always play some part.” 

(Given my recent feedback training sessions, this topical lesson is one I’ll never forget: considering where I, or others, had an impact on the problem at hand.)

“People can’t be brave when they don’t know how to get back up. Teach them how to recover before they fall.” 

(Enough said.)

Psychology underpins every customer journey. It’s a conduit for empathy. What does the user need? How do we please them?

As a marketer, her findings on the human condition are largely impactful on my work. After all, psychology underpins every customer journey. It’s a conduit for empathy. What does the user need? How do we please them?

But it’s more than this. Her messages hit home (and are easily transferable to leadership and many other areas), because at the core lies a common focus on human connection and communication. 

Marketing is for the people, by the people. Meaning, Brown’s findings apply to not only the customer journey but the thinkers behind it. It takes a certain level of bravery to innovate, to throw bold ideas into the ether and hope they not only resonate, but make a tangible difference. Those of us working in marketing are encouraged to be curious and creative in order to achieve all this, which if you think about it, means we’re in a constant state of vulnerability. 

Ironically, a lot of the time ‘adland culture’ opposes this. It’s about fake-it-til-you-make-it perfectionism that leads to many of us walking around with the heavy weight of imposter syndrome on our shoulders.

Ironically, a lot of the time ‘adland culture’ opposes this. It’s about fake-it-til-you-make-it perfectionism that leads to many of us walking around with the heavy weight of imposter syndrome on our shoulders. So what are the opportunities if we changed to embrace vulnerability and thus embody Brown’s definition of ‘brave leader’? What would it mean – as a culture, as an industry – if we became more accountable for our failures? Is the alternative being disconnected from our customer, from one another?

Leadership isn’t something everyone is born knowing. You pick up soft skills from life experience, of course, but the learning process is accelerated through mimicry. Observing people who have done it or are doing it well and ripping off their moves like a five-year-old in their bedroom singing into a hairbrush.

This is where books like Brown’s ‘Dare to Lead’ come in handy. I find myself constantly challenged as a leader, but constantly changing too. You know, that age-old equation of pressure, time and introspection resulting in growth. I look back and cringe at some of the ways I fumbled through tough situations in the early days. Not because they were necessarily THAT bad, but because I’ve learned so much since that they now seem abstract under my current modus operandi. With any luck, this evolution will keep going and I’ll judge the hell out of Past Me forever.

Maybe, with enough leaders like this, we can nudge the marketing industry into a place of true authenticity, making for fulfilled workers, clients and customers.

At the moment, I listen to her book on Audible every morning on the walk to work, marching to the beat of Brené Brown’s wisdom like the sad fangirl you now know I am. But for anyone looking to become a courageous, creative and caring leader, I highly recommend doing the same. Maybe, with enough leaders like this, we can nudge the marketing industry into a place of true authenticity, making for fulfilled workers, clients and customers. Maybe we can even collectively cure the modern isolation epidemic with more nurturing work environments. 

Sure, being brave sounds hard.

But being cowardly sounds very, very lonely.

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