Brené

Brown

Brené Brown Career Thought Leader Headshot

Summary

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston who studies vulnerability, courage, empathy, and shame. Her data sets encompass the stories of thousands of people, and her work uncovers “the truth about the emotional blind spots that hold us back both personally and professionally.”

As a speaker and author, Brown tackles tough topics “with wisdom, wit, candor and a deep sense of humanity.” She is the host of two weekly podcasts, the first researcher with a Netflix Special, and the author of six #1 New York Times best sellers. Her latest book, Atlas of the Heart, is covered in a five-part series on HBO Max.

Today, most of Brené’s time is dedicated to cultivating “braver leaders and more-courageous cultures” in organizations around the world. She also holds the Huffington Foundation Endowed Chair at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, where she earned both her Master of and Ph.D. in Social Work. Furthermore, she is a visiting professor in management at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, where she earned her Bachelor of Social Work.

Specialty Areas

Writing

Highlighted Books

Brown self-published her first book in 2004. Since then, she has grown into a #1 New York Times bestselling author, as well as a household name. As stated by Sir Ken Robinson, she “writes as she speaks – with wisdom, wit, candor and a deep sense of humanity.” We feature some of her most popular titles below.

Daring Greatly

Daring Greatly is Brown’s first book on courage and vulnerability, as well as a way to live your life. To clarify, daring greatly (as a practice) is having the courage to be vulnerable, or the courage to put your authentic self in situations where you are fully and candidly seen. Although this can feel uncomfortable and uncertain, Brown theorizes that it’s worth the risk. After all, “nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, or hurtful as standing on the outside looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena.” Learn more in Daring Greatly.
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Rising Strong

When you embrace vulnerability, you open your heart and mind to more connection, compassion, and joy. On the downside, however, the same is true for hurt, setback, and heartbreak. In Rising Strong, Brown explores how to reckon with these difficult emotions and “rumble with our stories” so that we can rise strong in the face of personal and professional struggles.
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Dare to Lead

After studying courage and leadership for nearly seven years, Brown published Dare to Lead. This playbook translates concepts from Daring Greatly and Rising Strong into daily practices for anyone looking to lead with vulnerability, empathy, self-awareness, and self-love. It’s a recommended read for teams, groups, and organizations.
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The Gifts of Imperfection: 10th Anniversary Edition

Brown studies difficult emotions like shame and fear, so when “wholehearted living” emerged as a theme in her data, she was initially taken aback. After a brief breakdown/spiritual awakening (her words), she returned to her research and found that living wholeheartedly means living authentically and imperfectly while loving yourself through it all. The Gifts of Imperfection is a guide to doing just that.
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Atlas of the Heart

As part of her research on shame resilience, Brown asked more than seven thousand people “to list all of the emotions that they could recognize and name as they were experiencing them.” On average participants named only three, thereby exposing a huge gap between what we feel and what we have the language to express. Brown attempts to close this gap in Atlas of the Heart. In this book, she takes you on “a journey through 87 emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human” and equips you with “all the language and tools [you] need to build meaningful connection in [your life].”
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Highlighted Articles

Over the years, Brown has cultivated a diverse collection of written work (available on brenebrown.com). This collection includes book adaptations, book recommendations, announcements, reflections, and gratitude. Popular topics include courage, leadership, social justice, belonging, and spirituality, which Brown defines as “a deeply held belief that we are inextricably connected to one another by something bigger than us, and something that is grounded in love.” Sample articles include:

Speaking

TED(x) Talks

The Power of Vulnerability
Length: (20:03)
In 2010, Brown presented this talk to roughly 500 people at TEDxHouston. To date, it’s been featured by TED and viewed more than 58 million times. If you weren’t at least one of these views (yes, you’ll want to watch it more than once), join Brown as she zeroes in on vulnerability – why we fear it, how we numb it, and how to embrace it moving forward.
Listening to Shame
Length: (20:22)
Two years after her groundbreaking talk on vulnerability, Brown returned to the TED stage. In “Listening to Shame,” she reflects on what life has been like since her initial talk went viral, discusses her new understanding of the relationship between vulnerability and courage, and explores “what can happen when people confront their shame head-on.”

Podcasts

Brown is the host of two Spotify original podcasts: Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead.

Unlocking Us
Unlocking Us is based on wholehearted living, meaningful conversation, and authentic connection. In weekly episodes, Brown “unpacks and explores the ideas, stories, experiences, books, films, and music that reflect the universal experiences of being human.” Solo episodes include her thoughts and shifting perspectives; “ask anything” episodes are dedicated to answering listeners’ questions; and guest episodes feature honest conversations with authors, researchers, creators, and friends. Among them are Laverne Cox, Oprah Winfrey, Dolly Parton, and Lukas and Willie Nelson.
Dare to Lead
Nearly ten years into her study on the future of leadership, Brown launched her second podcast, Dare to Lead. This weekly podcast offers “a mix of solo episodes and conversations with change-catalysts, culture-shifters, and as many troublemakers as possible.” They include Olympian and activist, Abby Wambach, and former President Barack Obama.

Netflix Special

In 2019, Brown became “the first researcher to have a filmed lecture on Netflix” when her trailblazing talk, The Call to Courage, debuted on the popular streaming platform. In this one-of-a-kind talk, she dispels the myth that vulnerability is a sign of weakness and unpacks what it means to “live in the arena.”

Resources

Assessments/Quizzes

Daring Leadership Assessment
Based on four courage-building skill sets, this assessment is intended to “gauge your strengths and your opportunities for growth as a daring leader.”

PERSPECTIVES

Daring Greatly

Vulnerability is sometimes perceived as weakness, or something to be ashamed of. In Brown’s eyes, however, vulnerability is not weakness. Rather, vulnerability “is having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” It is key to meaningful human experiences, and it is at the center of daring greatly.

A note about the origin of “daring greatly”:

The phrase “daring greatly” can be traced back to “Citizenship in a Republic,” a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in 1910. In this speech, he says:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….”

In Brown’s take on this idea, daring greatly begins with a choice, and that choice is up to you. Your options? Comfort or courage.

When you choose comfort, you choose to live outside the arena. You run from vulnerability, and inevitably, vulnerability catches up. When this happens, you likely feel exposed and uncomfortable, so you (knowingly or unknowingly) numb the difficult emotions that vulnerability brings to the surface. The problem with this approach? As humans, we don’t have the power to numb our emotions on a selective basis. In other words, when you numb your capacity to feel one emotion, you numb your capacity to feel at all. Because of this, Brown proposes an alternative approach to vulnerability – an approach that starts with choosing “courage over comfort.”

When you choose courage, you choose to live in the arena. You embrace and engage with vulnerability, and you find comfort in the discomfort by leaning into difficult conversations, listening, and learning. You “love with [your] whole heart,” despite the fact that doing so means you’re also risking heartbreak. You’re willing to take chances and make mistakes, because your sense of worthiness does not depend on being perfect. Rather, it depends on your sheer belief that, in spite of (and because of) your imperfections, you are worthy of love, connection, and true belonging. In Brown’s perspective, this is daring greatly.

For more on this idea and Brown’s perspectives, see her first book on courage and vulnerability, Daring Greatly. Her second TED Talk, “Listening To Shame,” also addresses these important topics.

Daring Leadership

Brown has studied the future of leadership for more than ten years, and according to her research, there is an industry-wide call for a different form of leadership: daring leadership. From Pixar to IBM, people want “braver leaders and more courageous cultures.” So, she’s answering the call.

To foster a generation of more daring leaders, Brown codifies brave leadership into four teachable, observable skills: “Rumbling with Vulnerability, Living into our Values, Braving Trust, and Learning to Rise.” For a better understanding of what these skills look like in practice, review the traits and behaviors of daring (and less daring) leaders below.

diagram showcasing qualities of daring leaders vs less-daring leaders.
Source: Brené Brown’s Daring to Lead

Meaningful Connection

As human beings, we are neurobiologically hard-wired for connection, which Brown defines as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” As a result, connection holds significant power in our lives. To better understand this power, consider life with and without connection.

When we feel connected, our lives have purpose and meaning. We feel a sense of true belonging, and we can “be present with people without sacrificing who we are.” When we feel disconnected, however, our lives are dictated by shame and fear. We feel unworthy of true belonging, and we suffer in silence. To break free from this silence and (re)connect with ourselves and others in more meaningful ways, Brown recommends broadening our emotional vocabularies, reflecting on why people disconnect in the first place, and strengthening internal connection before focusing on external connection.

Broadening your emotional vocabulary is the first step toward more meaningful connection, because our ability to connect over what we’re feeling relies on our ability to express what we’re feeling. For a better understanding of the vastness that is human emotion, consider starting with Brown’s latest book, Atlas of the Heart. In this map to more meaningful connection, she provides a common understanding of 87 human emotions in order to help you express yourself, as well as understand the experiences of others.

To connect with yourself and others in more meaningful ways, it is also important to understand what’s behind the human tendency to disconnect. The answer? Fear. Whether it’s the fear of vulnerability, the fear of failure, or the fear of not being enough, fear is “the one core variable that magnifies our compulsion to sort ourselves into factions while at the same time cutting ourselves off from real connection with other people.” Thus, the secret to more meaningful connection lies in overcoming the fears that hold us back.

While fear thwarts us from connecting in more meaningful ways, vulnerability does the opposite. Essentially, meaningful connection with others cannot happen until we are seen, and we cannot be seen until we have the courage to be vulnerable. According to Brown, finding this courage starts with internal connection. As she describes, internal connection is like an anchor that reminds us of who we are, and it strengthens our belief that we’re worthy of love and belonging. As we learn to love ourselves for who we are (imperfections and all), we realize and eventually believe that these imperfections make us human, thereby connecting us to all of humanity. Ultimately, this belief and the sense of worthiness that it creates allow us to put ourselves out there, in places where external connection can blossom.

Sources

  1. https://brenebrown.com/about/
  2. https://brenebrown.com/media-kit/
  3. https://www.linkedin.com/in/brenebrown/
  4. https://www.ted.com/speakers/brene_brown
  5. https://brenebrown.com/the-research/
  6. https://brenebrown.com/collections/getting-started-with-brene/
  7. https://brenebrown.com/books-audio
  8. https://brenebrown.com/articles/2018/10/23/a-note-of-thanks-a-commitment/
  9. https://www.theceomagazine.com/business/health-wellbeing/brene-brown/
  10. https://brenebrown.com/resources/rising-strong-truth-and-dare-an-introduction/
  11. https://brenebrown.com/articles
  12. https://brenebrown.com/articles/2018/03/27/defining-spirituality/
  13. https://brenebrown.com/articles/2019/04/26/book-read-first/
  14. https://brenebrown.com/articles/2015/07/27/the-most-dangerous-stories-we-make-up/
  15. https://brenebrown.com/articles/2019/05/01/lets-rumble/
  16. https://brenebrown.com/articles/2018/03/13/courage-comfort-rumbling-shame-accountability-failure-work/
  17. https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability
  18. https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame
  19. https://brenebrown.com/podcasts/
  20. https://brenebrown.com/podcast-show/unlocking-us/
  21. https://brenebrown.com/podcast/introducing-unlocking-us/
  22. https://brenebrown.com/podcast-show/dare-to-lead/
  23. https://brenebrown.com/podcast/new-dare-to-lead-with-brene-brown-trailer/
  24. Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. Directed by Sandra Restrepo, 2019, Netflix Original Production. Netflix, https://www.netflix.com/title/81010166.
  25. https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/assessment/
  26. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/man-in-the-arena.html
  27. https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/04/228971/brene-brown-the-call-to-courage-netflix-interview
  28. https://brenebrown.com/hubs/dare-to-lead/
  29. https://brenebrown.com/resources/dare-to-lead-list-of-values/
  30. https://brenebrown.com/resources/the-braving-inventory/
  31. https://www.theceomagazine.com/lifestyle/interview/brene-brown/
  32. https://time.com/5441422/expert-feelings-brene-brown-leadership/
  33. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/brene-brown-knows-what-makes-a-great-leader--and-most-politicians-wouldnt-make-the-cut/2018/10/15/876433ac-c7fa-11e8-b1ed-1d2d65b86d0c_story.html?noredirect=on
  34. https://www.inc.com/magazine/201810/maria-aspan/brene-brown-leadership-consultant-research.html?cid=hmhero
  35. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2017/09/12/brene-brown-why-human-connection-will-bring-us-closer-together/?sh=12c04ee92f06
  36. https://time.com/4029029/10-questions-with-brene-brown/
  37. https://brenebrown.com/articles/2018/10/15/clear-is-kind-unclear-is-unkind/
  38. https://brenebrown.com/articles/2018/12/04/leading-from-hurt-versus-leading-from-heart/
  39. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/22/brene-brown-vulnerable-dont-suggest-she-is-peddling-self-help
  40. Approved PR and press materials, available on Brené Brown's website
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