Brené on Armored versus Daring Leadership, Part 2 of 2 - Transcripts

April 12, 2021

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This is Part 2 of our two-part series on daring leadership, where I unpack four more common types of armor that we use to self-protect when we're in fear. These barriers include creating a fitting-in culture versus a belonging culture; fostering a scarcity-based culture versus modeling that we are enough and have enough; leading reactively versus leading strategically; and resisting change versus accepting and embracing change. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Hi everyone, it's Bernet and I'm here with part two of a special two part series from my new podcast. Dare to lead in case you have not heard every episode of both. My podcast Dare to lead and unlocking nests are now available for free only on Spotify. I'm dropping this two part special here in kind of the open feed because I really want you to get a sense of what dear delete is like the kind of topics were taking on. Um this is a follow up to last week's conversation we're pulling apart unpacking and getting really actionable about what it means to be brave and especially brave at work in part when we covered three of the most common types of armored leadership, including perfectionism and being the No. Er in this episode we look at more types of armor that come up in organizations. Um and we also talk about kind of those indicator behaviours, those little red lights that go off and we're like, oh I'm out, I'm outside of alignment with my values, I'm outside of during leadership, I'm armory nap. What's going on? I hope you'll join us for new Dear Lead episodes every week over on Spotify. I just feel so lucky to be doing this and I feel so grateful for the dare to lead and unlocking us communities that I'm in this learning community where we're asking hard questions and getting answers from people who are spending their lives helping us understand just what it means to be human. You can download the Spotify app for free. You can start listening today, I'm grateful.

Mm Hi everyone. This is there to lead and I am burn a Brown. This is part two of a two part series on armored leadership versus daring leadership. So in part one we talked about the big finding in the research that it's not fear that gets in the way of during leadership, its armor. It's the way we self protect when we're in fear. That sets us back from showing up in courageous ways. We also went through three different types of armor and compared them to daring leadership. So we talked about being an hour and being right versus being a learner and getting it right. We talked about tapping out of hard conversations versus lean into vulnerability and keyword here, skilling, skilling up for hard conversations and we talked about using shame and blame to manage others and ourselves. And we talked about leading ourselves and others from a place of empathy, accountability and learning. So in this episode we're going to dig into a few more really common types of armor that I come across again in organizations and teams in myself and we're going to talk about what are the indicator behaviors under these types of armor and what are the indicator behaviors and the commitments that we need to make in order to move from armored leadership too daring leadership. Glad you're here before we jump into exploring different types of armored versus during leadership.

I want to go back to something we talked about and part one of this series which is using shame and blame to manage others and to manage ourselves versus leading and managing others from a place of empathy, accountability and learning. In the last episode I talked about looking for shame and organizations or teams is really like doing the termite inspection if you see it, you've got a crisis. But more often than not, shame is behind the walls and I wanted to unpack that a little bit because what does it mean when shame is behind the walls? Like how does it show up in ways that were not actually seeing it as shame? We're not seeing people be berated. We're not seeing name calling. We're not seeing put downs. But what is shame behind the walls look like? Okay, so behind the wall shame can look like a lot of different things and so we have collected this research over the past decade and again taken, They corrected my number from last time I said 40,000, but I think we've taken 50,000 people through dare to lead training. So we've got some really good data on what shame behind the walls looks like. So let me give you some examples. one shame shows up at work back channelling meaning rather than talking to people and directly talking to them.

You talk about them or it's kind of the meeting after the meeting. So you're in the meeting. What does everybody think? I think it's great. Great idea. I just haven't heard anything that innovative in a long time. And then as soon as you walk out, you're like, oh my God, that shit is never going to work. Instead of speaking up and bringing your point of view in a straightforward, compelling, respectful way, you're back channelling blaming and finger pointing is another sign that shame is probably rooted in the culture, bullying, comparison cover ups. Everyone's hiding something or lying about something. Not telling the truth about something discrimination. One of the most painful forms of shame in organizations is favoritism, favoritism is shame in action because the people that are subjected to your favoritism and not part of the favorites feel smaller diminished less than put down gossiping. Let me tell you if you've got a gossiping issue, you got a shame behind the wall issue harassment.

The invisible Army. Oh, this one pisses me off. This is when I come to you and I say, hey, we're all really concerned about how you're handling the new benefits package. We, the invisible army and that's if someone comes up to me and says like, hey, we've all been talking and we really think you should reconsider. My first question is, who's we? Well me and the group, what group? Just me and the people in the office. What specific people have concerns about the way this is being handled and let's sit down together and talk about it. So don't use we unless you've got a mouse in your pocket that doesn't work. Just invisible armies really tough. Nostalgia can really be a form of shame. Well we didn't do things that way before you came around really before digital transformation.

We didn't do those kind of things and we were super successful. It's a very biting cutting way of not just clear as kind just say what you mean. Mean what you say. I always think nostalgia is a love for the way things used to be and the missing parenthetical is when people knew their place. So not a fan of nostalgia, perfectionism. Perfectionism is absolutely a function of shame. Perfectionism is the 20 ton shield that we carry around. If I look perfect work, perfect. Turn everything in perfectly, do it all perfectly. I can avoid or minimize shame judgment and blame any kind of management tool where we're tying people's self worth to their productivity. You are as good as what you produce shame in the walls, teasing shame in the walls, passive aggressive behavior. I would look for shame and I mean it's not always driven by shame, but there's often a shame in the wall.

Problem, forced ranked performance. Inherently shaming not a fan can find no data to substantiate the fact that when we force people into rankings that it does anything but crush innovation, creativity and collaboration. So these were some of the things that I wanted to follow up on the last podcast around shame and blame as armored leadership as opposed to leading from empathy, accountability and learning All right. First one we're going to dig in today. First type of armor versus daring leadership is fostering a scarcity driven culture versus committing to and modeling. We are enough and we have enough. So scarcity is basically there's never enough blank never enough time, never enough people never enough, you know, clarity, never enough, never enough, never enough. And a lot of times one of the key indicators we see in scarcity based cultures is we don't acknowledge good work in small successes because we fear some people might become complacent and slow down so never take your foot off the gas. Never celebrate the small wind because if you do, people are going to stop working hard. That is just not true. There are no data that support that. In fact if you look in the research with the data support is really the fact that when you don't slow down when you don't acknowledge small winds, when you don't acknowledge incremental victories, it increases burnout significantly.

On the other hand, when teams and leaders regularly practice gratitude celebrate milestones and winds. People normally redouble their efforts so it can feel counterintuitive but really we need to stop and recognize even if we've got a long way to go what we've accomplished because it refuels folks and when people are afraid to do that, that's because normally the culture is very scarcity driven. Another indicator and I think of these indicators as indicator like warning lights in your car. Another indicator. Warning light of a scarcity driven culture is leaders using fear and uncertainty to drive productivity. We could lose the accounts, we could lose the accounts, we could shut down, we could do this, we've got to do this. It is exhausting, it is unrelenting and it does not drive productive, innovative creative thinking On the other side, on the daring leadership side, instead of using fear and uncertainty to drive productivity when there's actually collective fear or uncertainty, which is a reality in the world. Today leaders acknowledge the fear and uncertainty. They name it, they normalize it with the goal of not leveraging it or using it but de escalating it. Big difference, Armoured leadership exhaustion is rewarded as a status symbol as opposed to during leadership where leaders model and respect boundaries and self care, huge difference when we joke and reward. Even informally exhaustion pulled an all nighter. Got here at six left at one man so that's awesome.

Really, what we need a model is tell me what's on your plate right now that's driving that that doesn't feel healthy or sustainable. Another indicator light is in these kind of scarcity driven armored leadership cultures because our perceived value is often tied to our performance. We tend to hustle for our worth. Now one of I think the hardest relationships to manage is the person who is constantly hustling for their worth, constantly vying for validation that they're good enough that their work is important that they're contributor and you often see that in scarcity based cultures in a culture where we're modeling that were enough and we have enough. Our work and efforts are acknowledged and were valued as people even when we make mistakes or fall short. So one of the things that we do, we calm our goals meetings that we have on a regular basis with our direct reports is we ask people to come with this kind of prepared statement and here's where I think I contribute a lot of value. Here's where I think my contributions are important and we fill it out separately as the leaders and we compare notes. Are you clear as my direct report on where I see you adding a lot of value and when people are hustling for their worth. I think leaders need to ask the question have we helped them be clear on what their value is. Another indicator light is. There's a level of comparison and ranking that drives the mentality of win, lose, crush or be crushed, kill or be killed. And part of that really comparison and ranking is that scarcity based armor, leadership culture on the daring leadership side.

We have fostering healthy competition that supports collaboration. The best competition is competition that supports collaboration. Like I think about I'm not ever gonna get through any of these podcasts moving forward without talking about pickleball, there will be a pickle ball metaphor for everything. So as an ex tennis player who I was a single player, I never really played doubles tennis, I played tennis for 30, some 40 years, I don't know a long time since I was little. And so pickleball been playing a lot of devils and what I realized is that I'm a very competitive person but I'm as excited to be the person who clicks paddles with my partner and says, great sir, wonderful return as I am to say, we got this great idea when it was a missed shot. Its competitiveness that doesn't just support collaboration, but it's a level of competition that nurtures collaboration and we all know when we're in that and when we all know when we're not okay, I'm gonna actually skip the one on values because I think I am going to do what I talked about in part one and do a values episode with y'all where I go through with a couple of folks, the values exercise and kind of show you how we look at it and talk about it so that maybe you can do it with your teams and in your organization as well. Okay. The next one I want to talk about is driving a fitting in culture which is this form of armored leadership versus cultivating a belonging culture, which is daring leadership. So in a fitting in culture, let me back us up for a sack and remind us that in the research that I shared, I've shared it ever since the gift. So it was in all the early books, but if you really want to do a deep dive into true belonging that is braving the wilderness. But one of the things I talk about that was so shocking to me in that research is that the opposite of true belonging is actually fitting in because fitting in is assessing the situation and becoming who you think you need to be and belonging is being yourself in a situation so that you can experience real connection and true belonging is hard because our level of true belonging can never really exceed our level of self worth because of our self worth is not high, then I'm quick to change who I am and trust me when I say I let me tell y'all I am chameleon par excellence. I learned very early through a lot of hard situations including never feeling like I really belonged at school and more painfully, never really feeling like I belong to my family, I really learned a lot about how to be whoever you needed me to be until that kind of felt like it started killing me around my late thirties and so part of my midlife unraveling was I got to stop alternating who I am as my therapist used to say, stop alternating and start integrating one person, one Bernet no matter who you are and in whatever context you see me, what you see is what you get.

And that's been probably one of the greatest most affirming changes in my life. Just one Bernet for better or worse. So when we talk about armored leadership versus daring leadership, we talk about driving a fitting in culture where we expect people to observe and adapt versus a belonging culture where we expect people to bring their real selves. And if we want creativity and innovation, if we want to be able to serve diverse customers, we need people bringing themselves different viewpoints. Diversity representation, inclusion, equity across the board at all intersections and so common indicator for a fitting in culture is commitments to diversity Equity, inclusion are not practiced even when their professed in a belonging culture. The commitments to diversity equity and inclusion or priority practices in strategy and decision making. They're not off to the side siloed as a vertical. They are a shared thing that runs across every vertical in every area. Human resources and diversity and equity is at the highest priority level. Reporting directly to the ceo. There are no decisions made without that taken into consideration and a fitting in culture. People are held to one narrow standard rather than acknowledge for their unique gifts and contributions, assimilation is promoted and valued versus in a belonging culture, diverse perspectives are cultivated, valued and prioritize we hire for them.

Re reward them. We frame sharing difference in opinions and life experiences as courageous and as value added to the company in a fitting and culture strategies for dismantling systemic bias are reactive. So we pull efforts together when there's been an issue or a problem versus in a belonging culture strategies for dismantling systemic bias are proactive. We are not reacting to something, we are always doing something to dismantle the systems that privilege some over others and push some to the margins while centering others last an armored leadership in a fitting and culture care for and connection with others are not seen as requirements for effective leadership in a belonging culture care for in connection with others are seen as irreducible requirements for leading. This was a very powerful finding in the research on during leadership. One that has fundamentally restructured and reorganized how I think of myself as a leader up to and including sometimes saying I'm really struggling to build meaningful connection with this person. I don't know if I'm the right leader or I need to do some real personal work or some real professional coaching work around what the barrier is to connection. And it's funny because I was so like wow care for in connection with is a requirement for leading someone I have to care for and be connected with the people. I lied true or not True, not sure. So we started digging in and digging into the data. It just came up solid as a rock. Absolutely you must care for be connected with.

So the first place I went to go speak after this idea emerged from the data was a high level military base air force base working with pilots, fighter pilots, squadron commanders. And I was like, oh God, I don't know how this is gonna go over. Let's see. And I was talking with the general in charge and I said, one of the things I'm gonna talk about today with your squadron commanders is this idea of caring for and connection with being prerequisites for good leadership during leadership. And he said, absolutely, we actually take it a step further here. We say if you feel no affection for someone, you cannot lead them. You must feel affection for the people. You lied. And I thought God, that's right. And so look sometimes for me that takes personal work with my therapist and sometimes that's coaching work to see what in that person usually behavior that is too close to comfort for me is creating the divide. It's a big ask to have affection for the people we lead. But it's a big job.

And if you can't cultivate it better to move that person to a leader who can offer that because that's what the people were leading deserve last one I'm going to look at in today's session and if these are helpful, there are several more of them and I can do another podcast down the line but I want to talk about actually I think I'm gonna do two more first one armored leadership versus during leadership. Leading reactively versus leading proactively and strategically so leading reactively as a form of armored leadership because we're in fear we react, we self protect, leading proactively and strategically requires making good decisions based on the best data we have at the time it's more vulnerable. It's hard getting out in front of things. Being strategic in our thinking is more risk taking, requires more innovation but it is daring leadership. So an indicator of leading reactively is decision making, problem solving and delegation processes are scattered reactive and done without context of other organizational issues. People are panicked, they're working in silos and they're moving fast to fix something or repair something without stepping back and out of the panic and the fear to make a more holistic decision. When we lead proactively and strategically decision making problem solving and delegation practice are thoughtful, deliberate and integrated with ongoing organizational strategies, huge indicator light related to this in leading reactively action bias, get it done now, which often leads us to solve problems that we haven't fully defined. I have really awful Action Bias y'all like when something especially consumer facing happens, I'm trying to replace the pattern of my go to response, being fixed this shit now to help me understand what's happening. Do we have a full deep understanding of what's happening. So that's what I'm trying to do right now. I'm about 70% there. Funny story we had a consumer facing issue at work, I was so upset by it and I walked up to the group that was trying to handle it and I said we need to fix this shit now and the leader of that team said we're on it.

And as I started to walk away, I only got three or four ft away before I heard her actually say so God y'all what should are we fixing exactly? And I turned back around, I walked up to the team and I said I heard that and she said look I'm sorry but we have fixed this before and clearly we're not fixing the right thing. It took us three or four hours to sit in that discomfort and that uncertainty in that vulnerability and ask questions and say I don't know and get data we didn't have and just be uncomfortable, uncomfortable, uncomfortable, hard, hard, hard Until we finally figured out the answer to this was actually an external cache problem at a server farm but finally figured out we fixed it. It's never happened since. But Action bias. What problem are we trying to solve? Einstein said if I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes to finding the problem in five minutes solving it. So the daring leadership side is just that we invest in problem identification and definition. The last indicator that I think is really interesting is during challenging times in a leading reactively environment. We often overreact or get paralyzed on decision making and delegation. So when things are stressful and challenging and we're used to leading reactively we either freeze up and get paralyzed. Are we overreact in the wrong direction when we lead proactively and strategically open heart vulnerability, not being no words but being learners we have systems and skills in place that allow us to be thoughtful and decisive in our decision making and delegation when things get tough we build systems so in our company we have a circle back system which means we circle back on things where we didn't show up like we wanted to or we need to re examine something.

We have a story rumble when there's a mistake. We have a process in place James clear who wrote atomic habits has this amazing quote that ah man, I just live by this. He says we don't rise to our highest goals. We fall to the level of our most broken systems. So sometimes and this is a big finding especially since we've taken all these tens of thousands of people through dear to lead is that sometimes we need courageous systems in place when we're afraid we need in our strongest moments to build systems that are going to force us to stay in the rumble, to stay in the uncertainty, to be thoughtful and decisive rather than erratic in our decision making are paralyzed. We need to build systems that support courage because we can't always depend on human courage, especially when the shit hits the fan. Alright, last one I want to go through and this is another example of armored versus during leadership, the armored leadership is resisting change. The daring, leadership is accepting and embracing change. This is a hard one. An indicator light where we're in a culture of change. Resistance is that in the face of change, the fear of irrelevance leads us to feeling stuck. So we double down on nostalgia and the way things used to be.

So let me break this down for you, Change is happening and all of a sudden we're afraid what if I'm not valuable in this new system, what if what I know or my expertise isn't what's needed anymore. And you'll have to remember that the biggest shame trigger at work is the fear of Irrelevance. What I know who I am, what I'm contributing is not relevant anymore. So now change is coming and we get into the shame and the fear of irrelevance. So we double down, we cross our arms across our chest and we say, well that's not the way that we've done that before. That's not the way we've always done things. That's not the way we do things around here and we locked down so tight that our fear of irrelevance becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, We shut down ourselves to learning, we shut down ourselves being curious, we shut down what we need to stay open and change in a culture, a daring culture where we accept and embrace change as things shift and change. We double down on learning and skill building while maintaining confidence about our ability to contribute. I love the best example of this, oh my God, Octavia Spencer's character in hidden figures when Nasa's bringing in Watson and the IBM which can do the calculations. What takes her team a day. Her team of 20 a day Watson, this new IBM computer can do in 15 seconds. And here she is leading this team of women calculators like human beings are doing calculations at Nasa.

And so here they bring in IBM and she doesn't shake her head and fold her arms across her chest and say, well trust computers and this is the end of the world and machine learning is gonna win us all, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. She sneaks into that room and learn how to use Watson. So the day and it's true story the day that the IBM people are going to demonstrate Watson for all of the staff at Nasa, they can't get it started. She walks up and starts it, they say uh what are you doing? Don't touch it. And she's like can y'all work it and they're like uh we actually can't. She's like I can. And she becomes the first black female manager at Nasa and saves the jobs of her entire team who she also trains on it. Mm That's accepting Embracing change. Last indicator. Light under resisting change. Is that change and uncertainty lead us to become increasingly territorial cynical or critical never gonna work.

Other people have tried this. This is stupid versus in the face of change were open collaborative and curious about the future and what's possible. So again, I thought it would be helpful just to spend a couple of episodes dedicated to walking through what is armored versus daring leadership. What does it look like? What are the indicator lights? And how can we as individuals become more and more aware of. It's not like, oh I am armored or I am daring or on this continue on my more armored. Maybe that's a great place to start for an assessment and you can take an assessment on Bernie Brown dot com for free. It will give you some interesting information on the four skill sets of courage, vulnerability values, trust and getting back up after failures. Rising. But we're all all of these elements. Sometimes if something's really scary for me, I can get more armored sometimes when I have some more confidence or grounded confidence, which is what we use to replace armor?

We replace armor with grounded confidence, curiosity, the ability to be invulnerability without tapping out and practice. We're all all of these things and it's about self awareness. It's about, wow, when am I armoring up? What's triggering it? How does that look and how can I stay curious instead of armored? I appreciate you all joining me for this two part series. I hope it's helpful. I'm interested to hear what you think because I can do some more of these if they are actionable and instructive because that's what I want there to lead to be and we've got great guests. But sometimes it's fun just to drill down on the research. Really grateful for this listening community. Learning is great learning together is that's the power y'all stay awkward, brave and kind armor off curiosity On the Dearly podcast is a Spotify original from podcast. It's hosted by me Burn A brown, produced by max Cutler Kristen Azevedo, Carly Madden and by weird lucy productions, sound designed by christian Azevedo and Andy weights and the music is by the sufferers get out most days.

You see, I like walking the bone. It's good for me. Did you tell me well we could go here, take me to the good times. I just got to get out of those days. You see, I like talking the founding for me. Could you tell me? Well we could go ahead and take me to the good town Summers in Brooklyn with an age shaking from the rooftop on MLK Mhm I hope you'll really enjoy the episode. I think if we can just build more self awareness and start to develop new skill sets around keeping the armor off, it's a game changer for more dear to lead and unlocking us. You can download the Spotify app for free and start listening today. Yeah.