A Call for Daring Leadership


“Everyone that works in this department has been in my office and told me that you have a chip on your shoulder.” She told me matter-of-factly.

What!? They did? OMG…

“Since you accepted that new position, you’ve been walking around here with a high and mighty attitude… and everyone has noticed.” She said as she looked down at me. 

Say what?!? I was shocked. And ashamed. I had no idea that was how I was coming across to my co-workers.

“Gosh… I’m sorry…” I stammered. “I guess I didn’t realize I was doing that. I will certainly go apologize to each one of them.”

Which I did… and each one of them told me that they never said anything to my boss about me having a chip on my shoulder. They all genuinely wished me well in my new position.

Right then and there, I swore that if I were ever in a reporting relationship with this woman again, I would leave the organization. No. Matter. What.

She was an armored leader.

Every morning she would put on her power-over-others suit, slip on her heels of compliance and control, accessorize with perfectionism and manipulation, and finish with the scent of ‘Crush or Be Crushed’. 

She led with fear and intimidation. 

It’s time for a new kind of female leader… a brave leader who has grounded confidence and understands that vulnerability isn’t weakness. One who isn’t afraid to take off her armor, show up and be seen, and lead with her heart.

We need daring leaders who don’t wield power over their teams (that’s the old model of leadership) but instead a leader who uses her power for good, not her own agenda.

When we abuse our power and use it to manipulate and coerce our teams, we create resistance, distrust, self-protection, and animosity. And what’s worse… it creates a cycle of leadership where those on the receiving end typically follow the same behaviors when they are in a position of leadership.

I’d like to suggest we consider three other ways we can drop our armor and wield our power:

1. Power with – Having a power-with mindset means that we acknowledge where each person is different and use those differences to build collective strength. Where you might be weak, others might be strong and the opposite is also true. A daring leader doesn’t need to have all the answers because she acknowledges the gifts her team members have and gives them space to collaborate for the greater good. Power with is not a threat to her role, rather a testament of her ability to harness individual strengths to make a larger impact.   

2. Power to – A daring leader believes that those around her haven’t fully tapped into their potential. She believes that each person has the ability to make a difference and her job is to help them do just that. She paves the way for them to be the best version of themselves by sharing of herself. She does this by delegating high-profile projects, asking for input before making a decision, or assigning challenging tasks designed to help others grow. Just as a candle’s light doesn’t dim when shared, a leader who shares her power only multiplies her influence.

3. Power within – There is a fine line between having self-confidence and being egotistical, and a daring leader stands firm in her self-worth without being self-absorbed. She doesn’t feel the need to puff up her chest or belittle her team members in order to prove her worth because she is confident in who she is and what she brings to the table. A daring leader isn’t afraid to challenge assumptions, push the status quo, or question long-held beliefs when it’s the right thing to do instead of using these tactics as a power move. 

As daring leaders, we have the responsibility to bring our whole hearts into leadership.

Minouche Shafik, director of the London School of Economics perfectly sums up the future of leadership when she said, “In the past, jobs were about muscles, now they’re about brains, but in the future they’ll be about the heart.”

Will it be easy? No. 

Will it be uncomfortable? Yes.

Will we need to be vulnerable? Most certainly, yes.

Our first step? We need to be willing to take off our armor and dismantle everything that we use to protect us. Our perfectionism, our need to be right, our need to be liked, using busy as a status symbol, collecting gold stars, exerting power-over, leading from hurt, hustling for our worth, working from scarcity… that stuff sure gets heavy if we hold it long enough!

Our second step is to leverage our greatest asset… our heart... and be willing to rumble with vulnerability, live into our values, build vulnerability-based trust, and learn to rise strong when we get knocked down. For that is what daring leaders are made from.

I encourage you to join me in this daring leadership journey. I’ll be sharing how I’m applying the work of Brené Brown (from her Dare to Lead book) to my own leadership opportunities in the coming months. 

PS - You’ll be happy to know that I moved to the new position that prompted this discussion and stayed with the organization for ten more years. There was always a slight chance of restructuring but I never reported to her again.

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