After viewing the video of Professor Brene Brown's presentation on "The Power of Vulnerability,"
1. Of the many concepts discussed, which two or three made you really think (or feel)… really gave you that “ah ha” moment? For each, explain why: Were they new to you? Or did they hit something close to a personal experience of yours? Or was it the connections or applications among them that gave you pause? Or were they ridiculously wrong?
2. Now think about the connections among these likely personal concepts and reflect upon their applications to the more public arena of leadership. Does awareness and cultivation of these attributes impact one’s (i.e., your) ability to lead? (It is ok to say, “no, this is a lot of mumbo jumbo,” as long as you support your view). Provide an example where one of the various concepts presented impacted an experience of yours in either a positive or negative manner.
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Brene Brown’s presentation on “The Power of Vulnerability” is a reiteration of earlier theories of human association that emphasize the importance of openness to the formation of strong personal relationships. Brown stresses the importance of human connections to our own physical and mental well-being, and the importance of allowing one’s vulnerabilities to be visible as the key element in developing those connections. No man, she is arguing, is an island unto himself. We all need human contact, and the quality of that contact can be as high as we need it to be only when we are willing to expose our most personal sense of inadequacy – in short, to be open about that which we feel embarrassed or ashamed, whether it is a visible physical characteristic, or a deeply-hidden feeling of shame regarding a hidden physical or emotional characteristic or about past actions or thoughts that, exposed to the light of day, might diminish our stature in the eyes of others. Again, Brown is not breaking new ground when she suggests that personal relationships born of hidden feelings of jealously, embarrassment, or resentment would provide a very fragile foundation upon which to build human connections. While her underlying thesis is hardly novel – books like Brad Blanton’s Radical Honesty have tread the same territory – the impact of her presentation does not suffer from its lack of originality. Only through openness and honesty can meaningful relationships be constructed and sustained.
How one answers questions regarding lessons learned from Dr. Brown’s presentation is dependent upon the individual student. Everybody’s experiences are different, and everybody’s upbringing is unique to each individual. Obviously, answering these questions requires the very willingness to expose one’s vulnerabilities that are at the core of the presentation. Unless one has led the perfect existence – and such perfection in the realm of human development is nonexistent – then each student should be capable of relating personally to the points Dr. Brown makes, particularly with regard to feelings of inadequacy or shame the concealment of which has influenced relationships. Feelings of intellectual inferiority or physical inadequacy can influence an individual’s entire life, from personal and professional ambitions unrecognized to relationships undermined by the emotional burden of concealing feelings. The sense of one’s value as a human being directly impacts the course one’s life takes.
The “real world,” of course, does not always allow for the prescriptions for happiness set forth in the presentation. It is unrealistic to assume that one can walk into a job interview, especially in management, and expect success through a complete purging of one’s soul. Similarly, many professions, law and medicine to name two, do not allow for the kind of intimacy among colleagues that “The Power of Vulnerability” suggests. Displays of “weakness” are not considered an attribute in much of the professional world. One’s high school football coach probably doesn’t want to hear about a prospective player’s emotional wounds; he is more likely to remain focused solely on the student’s ability to read a zone blitz. That is the unfortunate reality in which most of us live. Such experiences, though, are not the stuff from which the relationships that will last well-beyond the high school years are forged.
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