By now you are realizing that I am convinced the Church needs better equipped leaders. And if You’re following along with these blogs, you also realize that one purpose of these blogs is to introduce others’ work so that those of you serving the Church have new knowledge streams from which to draw and so to become better leaders. Today, let me continue my introduction of grounded theory researched Dr. Brene’ Brown. We’ve never met in person. I’ve never even been in the same room with her. But, and this is a big but…I am certain her work, if understood and applied, can make a real difference in the quality of leadership in the Church. And you read about some of her work on in our last post.
So, what follows is a bit about what she has to say about increasing courage…or living more bravely. Why? Because effective leaders need to be courageous; and because courage can be learned. Here’s how Dr. Brown suggests that learning happens.
- Choose courage over comfort, every day, all day. If you are an ecclesial leader, sit with that axiom. Ask yourself, how many times have you or another leader walked away from discomfort, all the while knowing that in doing so you were allowing someone or something to obscure Jesus’ light, life or love?
- Be intentional about whose feedback you allow to influence you. Jesus made it very clear that to stand for Him and His ways would evoke opposition. Satan means opposer. That means it is VERY important to be selective about whose feedback you allow “in.” According to Dr. Brown the number of people on that list should fit on a 1-inch by 1-inch square and should be characterized by their love for you combined with their willingness to be honest with you. Take a minute and make that square. Then, do not allow yourself to be influenced by other people’s feedback or or against you or the mission. And one more nugget from Dr. Brown: never accept feedback from someone who has no skin in the game…who’s never struggled, fallen or dreamed.
- Belong to yourself first. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s own image. That means you must grow into that image. Brown says, “Speaking your truth, telling your story and never betraying yourself for other people”…that’s belonging to yourself first. And then you can belong to and with others because you can be who you really are. No more trying to fit in or please or accommodate…that is the enemy of true belonging. If you’ve read this far, take a minute and do inventory. How much do you worry about what others are saying and thinking about you? How often are you hiding your insights, knowledge, experience or wisdom? How much do you attend to becoming who God created you to be?
- Embrace joy and refuse to “dress rehearse trauma.” In other words, when good is happening, do not diminish it with worry over the bad that could happen! What is the key to this keeping this optimistic and courageous perspective? Courageous leaders live grateful for what is, joyful in goodness and poised to walk with others in their dark times because they live with the certainty that life is good and God is good. That perspective allows for interpersonal empathy and hope. It allows for optimism and creativity. It allows room to be vulnerable, to share joy and sorrow and so to build relationships that are trusting and trustworthy.
- Welcome discomfort. Remember what #1 is: choose courage over comfort. Have the uncomfortable conversations about inclusion, equity and diversity. Correct those who are off the track. Learn how to hold respectful but difficult conversations about performance, about whose voices are around the table, about mission effectiveness. To not have them, Dr. Brown says, is the very definition of privilege, for you exercise the privilege of your personal comfort over another’s growth and the mission. Jesus made it clear that it was not to be that way with us. We are to be those who instruct the ignorant, and lift up the lowly, and dare to speak His truth to power. He did. He welcomed discomfort. So must the courageous leader.
- Show up, even when the odds are against you. Show up, do your best, give it your all. And do it because the Lord has given you the gift of courage to use. The Lord expects YOU to use the gift of courage He gives. He expects you to not let fear or failure stop you from learning, growing and becoming. You will go where he leads, and not know what happens next. It’s in the going that you build courage.
Each of these choices fuels courage. Each of these choices will make you a little braver. Each of these actions will help you follow Jesus more closely…the one who said 365 times “Be not afraid.” Each of these choices will increase your effectiveness as a leader. So choose courage over comfort. Jesus did. So must you!
 For more of Dr. Brown’s work, see her TED talk on vulnerability and courage: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability?language=en or her books Daring Greatly, Dare to Lead, The Gifts of Imperfection, Rising Strong and Braving the Wilderness