Rather than being devoid of emotion, workplaces are increasingly becoming reliant on the human heart. To quote Minouche Shafik, the Director of London's School of Economics, "In the past, jobs were about muscle, now they're about brains, in the future they'll be about heart." If you want your business to thrive in the future, 'Dare to Lead' is essential reading.
Delving into the emotions of great leadership and the temptation we all feel to avoid difficult or emotional conversations in the workplace – and other areas of our lives – this book unpicks the values and skills needed to drive organizations to future profitability. Packed full of information based on more than 20 years of research and insights gleaned from countless interviews, a range of behaviors leaders need to enter the next era of work with confidence and courage are identified. Helpfully, clear strategies, and plans for developing these skills and qualities are also provided.
LEADING WITH HEART
While automation and AI may be able to take on some of the workplace's analytical and processing tasks, they will never be able to replace human creativity, passion, or heart. Because of this, these qualities will become increasingly valuable in the future. As the author points out, time and again throughout the book, the only way to leverage these qualities is by becoming proficient at leading with heart, leaning into our values, building trust, and courageously exposing our vulnerability when it matters most. Often, this is when it feels the least easy to do.
Beginning by explaining the intrinsic link between courage and vulnerability and how our emotional armor gets in the way of bold leadership, the book defines four sets of skills that are needed to lead with heart. Far from being 'soft' skills, these abilities are hard-won and require continual practice to keep sharp. Rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust, and learning to rise after a fall can be learned, observed, and measured. The book comes with additional resources and a workbook downloadable from the author's website to help readers build these skills and measure them too.
Sweeping away the myths about vulnerability, the text explains why this quality is needed to forge authentic connections, get to the heart of matters, and build trust within an organization. Vulnerability and trust are two sides of the same coin. To betray or withhold one is to do the same with the other. Organizations that lack trust are doomed to fail. Therefore, daring leaders are the ones who continue to learn and become willing to discard their emotional armor, expose their vulnerability, and lead with feeling and emotion.
But this is not done carelessly. Safe spaces, clear boundaries, and clarity of direction and expectations are also needed if leading with vulnerability and integrity is to bring results. While this may seem to be a gross waste of time, investing effort to understand the fears and feelings of a team or workforce is far more effective than belatedly managing ineffective and unproductive behavior. Clear boundaries and language enable us to understand each other, expose vulnerabilities, and build stronger relationships. These authentic relationships and workplace comradery give people the confidence and freedom to innovate, experiment, and grow. It also allows individuals and teams to try new things without the fear of failure. Trying, failing, and then trying again is a necessary process for the growth of both individuals and organizations. The quicker and more willing we are to do this, the more likely we are to achieve greatness.
Integrating thinking, feeling, and behavior enables wholeheartedness. This wholeheartedness allows us to engage in trust, creativity, innovation, and take accountability for our actions. These qualities are critical for organizations wanting to develop and grow with their market, keep their star employees, and build a workplace that is connected and peopled with engaged, enthusiastic, and switched on players.
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE HELPS
When we are open and connected to our feelings so that we can understand what they are telling us, we can engage in critical thinking and make better decisions. Our emotional intelligence helps us navigate through difficult changes in our businesses effectively. As tempting as it can be to 'put on armor,' revert to limbic responses and protect our vulnerable areas, as soon as we do, we lay the path for leading with fear and other destructive behaviors that stifle creativity and growth. A table of common armored leadership techniques is provided with their antitheses, daring leadership methods. A whole chapter is given to support these daring leadership methods with anecdotes and examples. In doing so, the author leads us through the tactics and qualities daring leaders use to achieve brilliant results within their organizations.
Instead of driving perfectionism and fostering fear of failure, we are challenged to model and encourage healthy striving, empathy, and self-compassion. Rather than reward exhaustion as a status symbol and attaching productivity to self-worth, we are invited to model and support rest, play, and recovery. These simple-sounding changes can be hard to amend if an organization struggles in a culture of shame that tells people to 'Suck it up' or 'Push through.' But if we are not brave enough to turn the tide of destructive thought patterns and emotionally stifling cultures, we are left with rising absenteeism, tumbling engagement levels, and half-hearted efforts at meeting company goals. Ultimately the business and its leaders will lose out.
Daring leaders do what needs to be done for the business while always keeping the people in mind. Behaving with kindness and providing clarity, acting with generosity, and respecting others stop a toxic workplace from developing and shame eroding a business from the inside. Empathy, connection, and responsible vulnerability are the solid foundation of daring leadership; the workplaces of tomorrow, and the people within them, will need this foundation to create freely, innovate and work from their hearts. The path is not simple, and daring leaders are aware that it is their personal ability to thrive in the ambiguity of paradoxes and opposites that will drive their companies into the future. Grounded confidence, unwavering curiosity, and clarity of values all need to be in a daring leader's collection of qualities to avoid getting lost and resisting the urge to armor up.
Helpfully, the book finishes by tying behaviors to these values and feelings, making it easy to name the talents and skills needed to underpin them. It shows how daring leaders believing that people do the best with what they have, allows them to respect others for who they are and hold them accountable for what they are doing. By taking this perspective, organizations, teams, and individuals can build trust, develop their skills, and grow to be better. It identifies the behaviors of trust – boundaries, reliability, accountability, keeping confidences, integrity, holding back judgment, and generosity. In doing so, it provides the reader with tangible and actionable methods for building self-awareness, creating a climate of trust, and developing organizational resilience one hire at a time.
All the qualities and behaviors discussed in the book are ones that will be most valuable in the future of work. They cannot be programmed. Machines cannot generate them. They are intrinsically human, challenging to master, and forever tied to our values and who we really are. Daring leadership is about the authenticity of self and enabling authenticity in those around us. It may not be easy, but it is undoubtedly worthwhile.