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Dare to Lead: Leadership Without Armor

Are You Causing Your Team Harm by Following Outdated Advice?

“Impossible,” you think to yourself after finishing the latest chapter of Dare to Lead, Brene Brown’s lauded leadership book. You trust your friend Meg’s recommendations, and she told you that you needed to read it, and you are.

So be it.

Glancing out of your office window, you see the cubicles filled with your teams, two agile development groups with separate products. They’re happily coding away, turning user stories into valuable features.

A large burn down chart on the wall does show scope creep, which means “Team A” (the name you notably chose even though Scrum says to let teams self-organize – you didn’t want some frivolous name like Scrummy McScrumteam to be selected) won’t finish all the features of this sprint. You think to yourself, “That was the business unit’s fault for not defining the story properly with the product owner!”

A New Kind of Management Advice

You glance back down at the book and wonder how the author could get it so wrong with advice contradicting years of other management books and corporate-sponsored training sessions that came with cheap, paper certificates that you’ve long discarded.

Reflecting a moment, you remember all the times you’ve kept things 100 percent professional by redirecting the conversation whenever it got too emotional, keeping the workspace free from conflict.

Just last week, you remember the uncomfortable feeling you had when it seemed like Kevin was nearly in tears in Team B’s sprint retrospective. He mentioned something about a sick relative, but you shut that down – no need for personal matters in a retro.

You remember you never did follow up with the scrum master for allowing the conversation to veer off course like that. You jot down a note on a yellow sticky to follow up with Erin.

Armored Leadership VS Daring Leadership

The book’s words still ring through your head. “Armored leadership vs. Daring Leadership.” It was just one section of the book, but something about it just won’t leave you.

Are you armoring up?

Well, are you?

What are you protecting yourself from, exactly? Productivity would undoubtedly be hurt if you were honest about your weaknesses and feelings. Wouldn’t it? They might not respect you!

  • Item 1: Being a Knower and Being Right vs. Being a Learner and Getting It Right? If you are honest, you tend to want to be right rather than get it right. You could do work here.
  • Item 2: Using Power Over vs. Using Power With, Power To, and Power Within. Despite the discomfort, you have work to do here to break the “power over” mentality.
  • Item 3: Leading for Compliance and Control or Cultivating Commitment and Shared Purpose? Does your team have a shared purpose? More work to be done. Your team doesn’t have a combined purpose. Not yet, anyway.

You glance through the rest of the items and make similar mental notes.

OK. That armored leader, focused only on the pragmatic and practical, isn’t the type of leader that you want to be. You want a team that’s excited to come to work, not just employees that clock in every day.

Time for Changes

You flip back to the beginning of the e-book. You were only really skimming before, but you need to engage with the material thoroughly and make some real changes.

What is the overall point you want to learn?

Perhaps there is value in empathizing with the people on your team to better understand where they are coming from. Maybe there is value in being vulnerable by sharing the real truth of even bad situations with them. What if the team can gel better without so much micromanagement from you.

Could the Scrum lessons have been right?

Are you the baddie?

You push away the negative thoughts – you don’t have to be that person! A pit grows in your stomach. Rather than accidentally causing harm by doing something you didn’t know you were doing, you may have been causing harm by doing precisely what you intended because you were following outdated advice.

Surprisingly, you give yourself a wry smile. You are actually grateful.

You can learn; you’ve always been able to learn!

This is absolutely a fixable situation.

Determining to be Daring

Pushing thoughts of the team’s lost productivity due to those old ways of managing out of your mind, you approach Dare to Lead again with fresh eyes and an open mind.

Yes. You can already see how much more valuable it will be to not avoid conflict, but instead, to foster healthy conflict in search of a good solution. The team will be much happier if they’re treated and empathized with as people instead of just employees. 

You jot down another note on a yellow sticky to thank Meg for recommending this book to you. This is going to make a considerable change in your department!

What was that quote again?

“The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”

Are You Ready to Dare to Lead?

OK, so YOU may not have had this experience, but after reading Dare to Lead and discussing it at IntelliTect’s weekly book club meeting, I’ve had to reevaluate my view of management. And I wasn’t the only one.

If you’d like to see what I’m talking about, you can purchase the book here. (IntelliTect is in no way associated with Brene Brown and receives no compensation for any purchase you may make).

Already read it? Let us know what you think about the book in the comments.

Want More Management Articles?

Consider our previous blog, Agile Demystified: 7 Metrics to Assess Your Agile Practices.

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