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Book Review: Dare To Lead by Brené Brown

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I first discovered Brené Brown when I saw this TED talk titled The Power of Vulnerability:

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Which Brown followed up with this TED Talk, Listening to Shame:

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dare-to-lead-brene-brown-book-cover So when I started on a leadership course at work, I decided to buy Dare To Lead by Brené Brown.

Dare To Lead is about leadership that is vulnerable, values-based, trusting and resilient. The book is split into four parts.

The first and biggest part is Rumbling with Vulnerability. In this section Brown discusses what vulnerability is, why it is important, myths about vulnerability, using courage to drop our armor as leaders, dealing with shame and empathy and curiosity grounded in confidence.

The second part is Living Into Our Values. Values are very important to me, so unsurprisingly this was my favorite part of the book. This section covers what our own values are, what organisational values can be and how to turn values into measurable

behaviours. The List of Values activity I completed with some of my colleagues at work and I found it an incredibly useful in terms of learning more about them and what they value. Since I have also contributed to a consultation at work around our organisational values.

The third part of the book is Braving Trust. This section of the book is all about building trust as a leader and recognising how trust is built up gradually over time and can be easily lost.

The fourth part of the book is Learning to Rise which is all about resilience. This part of the book is about recognising emotion within ourselves and others as a leader, being curious about emotions and being self-aware enough to recognise what is going on emotionally for ourselves and others.

Throughout Dare To Lead are many helpful strategies that if implemented would make you a better leader. Including strategies around: having difficult conversations, increasing self-awareness, being aware of the values of ourselves and of the people we lead, being aware of the stories we tell ourselves (that may or may not be true), how to build trust and courage in the people that you lead.

Dare To Lead is written in a way that feels like you’re having a conversation with Brown. She gives examples from her own experience and also asks open questions styled in a coaching method to encourage the reader to think about how these experiences relate to their own life.

About Brené Brown
Brené Brown is a Research Professor at the University of Huston, is a Social Worker and delivers talks and training on leadership around innovation, creativity and change. Brown has worked with Pixar (Disney) and Facebook around leadership. You can learn more about Brené Brown on her website here.

Dare To Lead by Brené Brown is available to buy on Amazon.

Review soon,


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Book Review: Wilful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan

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Wilful Blindness is when a person or people chose to deliberately pretend not to know about or ignore ethically dubious acts.

It happens on both a micro and macro scale. It spans all parts of society. It can have devastating consequences to both individuals and communities.

Wilful Blindness was originally a legal term, but once Heffernan heard the term she started seeing Wilful Blindness everywhere.

In our collective history of the past and in how governments and businesses operate today.

Heffernan started talking to people, lots of people, from different professional backgrounds and they all knew what she was talking about.

They were all able to give examples of Wilful Blindness in their lives.

In Wilful Blindness, Heffernan identifies the causes and gives examples of the negative consequences of Wilful Blindness. She explains how to expand your mind to be less susceptible to the epidemic of Wilful Blindness.

Heffernan uses psychology to explain human behaviour when it comes to Wilful Blindness and suggests that:

  • We like people that are the same or similar to ourselves. This can lead to blindness to difference and diversity and the benefits of the challenges that they bring.
  • Love of people, ideas, money, things, values, can make us blind.
  • Holding on to deeply held beliefs can mean we miss or ignore evidence that is contrary to these deeply held beliefs.
  • Everyone’s mind has limits and these limits are stretched to make some very complex organisations, which make it difficult to see the truth or know what’s going on.
  • We bury our head in the sand. We hope that difficult issues will go away. We even delude ourselves by not looking, acknowledging or talking about issues.
  • We blame external sources for ethically difficult decisions and justify it to ourselves and other by stating: I was just doing my job.
  • Cultures, conformity and the craving for acceptance from our peers can make us blind to other, broader or different perspectives.
  • People that see what others are blind to and do nothing reinforce the status quo. Not only that, but they also imply through omissions that everything that makes up the status quo is acceptable.
  • Physical distance from a situation or problem can lead to cognitive dissonance and make someone blind.
  • Money and the removal of ethics from work makes people obey and conform. They are much less likely to notice issues or be brave enough to make a stand.
  • People who challenge Wilful Blindess have a tough time. But common qualities in these people include: a sense of social justice, they are generally nonconformists, they are often trendsetters, they feel compelled to raise an uncomfortable truth, they have determination, a high level of resilience, they obsess about the truth and the truth others are ignoring, they have an eye for detail and are willing to suffer both personally and professionally to get others to see the truth.

Throughout Wilful Blindness Heffernan presents a compelling argument and engaging narrative, which is enhanced with fully referenced examples. Examples include: child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, problems in BP, the banking crash caused by subprime mortgages and derivatives (2007-2010), the Nazis in World War 2 and post operative child deaths in Bristol.

Overall the book is a fascinating exploration of human psychology and why we often fail to see the obvious. If you’re interested in psychology, self-awareness, leadership or business you should read this book.

Review soon,



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The Secrets to Self-Awareness

By ThinkingNo Comments

The Secrets to:


Self-awareness is about understanding more about you. It’s about being aware of your thoughts, feelings, ego, knowledge, skills, experiences, relationships, communication, strengths & weaknesses, drives and behaviours in a situation. Self-awareness isn’t something you do just once or occasionally. It should be an on-going day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment task.

There are numerous benefits to being more self-aware. A good example is that you can use self-awareness to change how you respond to different discussions and events to get better outcomes. It is just about you being aware of yourself and how you influence others. Nobody can be self-aware at all times, but you can make yourself more self-aware.

So how do you become more self-aware? Here’s my suggestions, based on research online and my own experiences:

1. Observation
Observe everything going on around you. Including yourself and how you interact with others.

2. Reflection
Reflect on just about everything. It could be a past experience, or reflecting on something you’ve learned or read. Consider:

  • Who? What? Why? How? When?
  • What were your thought?
  • What were your feelings?
  • What were your behaviours? How did others behave?
  • What outcome did you want? Did you get it? If not, what could you do differently?
  • What did you learn? How can you use this learning in the future?

People have lots of different ways of reflecting. Some good ideas include: meditation, keeping a daily journal and counselling sessions (using the counsellor as a sort of sounding board).

Two important things about reflection:
1. You’ve got to practice reflection to get good at it.
2. It has to become a regular behavioural habit.

3. Balanced Thinking
When observing or reflecting ensure that your thinking is balanced. When it comes to ourselves we are often too critical and only see the negatives. Be fair and kind to yourself. Recognise both the positives and negatives.

4. Develop Your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is about being able to recognising how you are feeling and the emotions of others around you. A good way of developing emotional intelligence is to replay past situations in your mind and consider what emotions people in the situations (including yourself) were experiencing.

Emotional intelligence will enable you to have more control of your emotions, when/how you express them and being able to influence others on an emotional level.

It might also be worth learning more about body language as 80% of communication is non-verbal.

5. Honest Feedback
Honest feedback about yourself is important for self-awareness. Any feedback should come from a person that only wants to help you to improve yourself. If you suspect that feedback coming from a person is because of their own self-interest or because of another agenda, think carefully about its bias.

You can get feedback from family, friends, work colleagues, customers, practically anyone. Usually all you have to do is ask.

It’s good to know about the 5 to 1 ratio. The person giving you feedback should give you 5 authentic compliments to 1 piece of specific constructive criticism.

The person you ask for feedback may not of heard of the 5 to 1 ratio. So it might be worth discussing it with them prior to asking for feedback. It would also be good if you started using the 5 to 1 ratio when you give feedback to others.

6. List Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Celebrate your strengths and develop weaknesses.


7. Encourage Open Questions
Encourage open questions that stimulate debate and discussion in all areas of your life. Debating and discussing opinions is a really good way to become more self-aware and develop awareness of others.

8. Know Your Story
The stories we tell ourselves, especially those about ourselves give insight to all things self-awareness. So know your story. Know how your past influences your now and how it could potentially impact on your future. Listen carefully to the narrative.

If there narrative is highly negative or too critical, you may want to sit down and rewrite your story on paper. Once you’ve done that start telling yourself and others your new story.

9. Life Goals
Write down your life goals. This exercise is brilliant for self-awareness, especially if you do the introspection as you develop your life goals.

10. Coaching
I’ve never had coaching. But there seems to be a widely held belief that good coaching encourages self-awareness. I can see how this would work. Like most things, the more you put into coaching in terms of self-awareness the more you’ll get out of it.

11. Our Own Version of the Truth
Two people can experience the same event, yet have completely different perspectives and views about it. We all have our own version of the truth. Remember this.

12. Psychometric tests
There are many psychometric tests available, each with its own Pros and Cons. Perhaps the most well-known is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) based on the work of Carl Jung, a psychoanalyst. You can take a MBTI test for free and view your results here.

Useful Online Resources
5 Ways to Become More Self-Aware – Harvard Business Review
Ways to Improve Your Self-Awareness – Cleverim
Know Thyself: How to Develop Self-Awareness – Psychology Today

Write soon,



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