Winnie the Pooh Knew All Along.

Winnie the Pooh Knew All Along.

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” – Stuart Smalley

Sometimes you just need a little pep talk. You may not always feel like you have what it takes to do the tough stuff and have the difficult conversations. But, you’re more than capable, and whatever “it” is, it’s absolutely worth finding the courage.

And that’s exactly what I want to talk about today: courage.

To back up a bit, I was once a new leader who faltered with my own bravery. I had my insecurities, but pretty early on, I realized I couldn’t lead effectively if I let them get the best of me. So, I read all the books, listened to the podcasts and webinars, and attended all of the conferences. I became obsessed with learning exceptional leadership inside and out. And of course, that led me to my obsession with culture.

A book I stumbled upon that changed my leadership journey was Dr. Brené Brown’s groundbreaking book, “Dare to Lead.” In it, Dr. Brown, or Brené, as I call her (little does she know we are imaginary friends and obviously on a first-name basis), guides us on a journey through the complexities of brave work and tough conversations, all while leading from the heart. “Courage and leading from the heart? Do they really go hand in hand?” Stick with me, and let’s unravel this together.

Brené confronts a common yet detrimental practice among leaders: avoiding difficult conversations. According to her research, this avoidance is often attributed to a lack of courage or essential skills. However, she astutely points out that over half of the leaders she’s interviewed blame a societal norm of being “nice and polite.” 

But at what cost? 

Well, they are profound: an erosion of clarity, trust, and engagement within teams, not to mention the staggering financial impact. Research shows that unresolved workplace issues can cost organizations upwards of $10,000, with some instances leading to losses exceeding $50,000. Ouch indeed! Her insights reveal that this avoidance breeds passive-aggressive behavior, corrosive gossip, and what she aptly terms the “dirty yes.” Instead of addressing core issues, time is squandered managing these destructive behaviors. And at the root of it all lies fear—an environment stifled by fear is one where innovation goes to die. A quote I use often and people really resonate with is, “The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.” Yup.

Brené shines a light on a culture of shame and blame that stifles accountability and growth. Perfectionism and the fear of making mistakes prevent people from taking the leaps that lead to real progress. And when it comes to vital conversations about diversity and inclusion, the comfort of silence often takes precedence over the discomfort of meaningful change. This rings true in the organizations we work with at Drive. Blame and bullying frequently manifest, occasionally ranking among the top 10 values of an organization as identified in our Culture Values Assessment. These destructive behaviors not only impede progress but also cultivate a toxic work environment.

When problems arise, leaders resort to quick fixes that merely scratch the surface, leading to recurring issues and a demoralized workforce. The fix, according to Brené? It starts with a shift from aspirational words to actionable behaviors when it comes to organizational values—a sentiment we wholeheartedly endorse at Drive. Values should be more than just words on a wall; they should be behaviors that can be taught, lived, measured, and evaluated. 

Courageous leadership means addressing issues head-on with compassion and clarity, creating spaces where innovative ideas are welcomed, and leaning into diversity and inclusion conversations. Remember, “What stands in the way becomes the way!” A courageous leader is the literal juggernaut of toxic behavior. Fantastic news, but how do we cultivate courage as leaders? First, you must embrace vulnerability as the bedrock of courage. Yes, fear and bravery coexist! Encourage open dialogues, stay present in problem-solving complexities, and continuously learn and adapt through the process. Embrace the discomfort, for without vulnerability, genuine courage and leadership are tough, if not impossible, to achieve.

So, as you navigate your leadership journey, commit to being a leader who doesn’t shy away from the hard parts of the job. Welcome vulnerability, lean into ‘the suck,’ and lead with unwavering courage from the heart. 

Remember: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Winnie the Pooh

Let’s dare to lead together.



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