Becoming a More Positive Influence: Heal Thyself and Lead from Heart, not Hurt!

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

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One of my favorite authors and thinkers is Brené Brown, and I want to feature some of her profound ideas related to being a positive influence and a better leader, particularly because her Netflix special was just released.

Get a load of these statistics:

These statistics suggest that most leaders likely think they are doing a much better job than what they are really doing.

The purpose of this article is to help you understand:

  1. What prevents leaders from being more effective,

  2. How it is critical for leaders to become more self-aware in order to become more effective, and

  3. What is required of leaders to actually move the needle on their effectiveness.

Background on Brené Brown

If you are not familiar with Brené Brown, she is a sociologist out of the University of Houston, who has devoted her professional career to studying a topic that affect everyone, often at a really deep level. The topic is shame. She has written the following books all about this topic, including shame’s kryptonite, vulnerability:

I couldn’t recommend these books more.

And, as you can see with her latest book, these concepts apply to leadership (quite strongly, I might add).

1. What Prevents Leaders from Being More Effective?

Brené Brown gets strait to the point, and straight to the primary underlying issue with ineffective leadership:

“One of the patterns that I’ve observed in working with leaders is that many people lead from a place of hurt and smallness, and they use their position of power to try to fill that self-worth gap. But we just can’t fill a self-worth gap by leading and using power over people, because that’s not exactly what we need.”

She goes on to write: “One of the key learnings emerging from our leadership study took my breath away: Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.”

“Leader, heal thyself.”

2. Why is it Critical for Leaders to Enhance Their Self-awareness?

“Without self-awareness and the ability to manage our emotions, we often unknowingly lead from hurt, not heart. Not only is this a huge energy suck for us and the people around us, it creates distrust, disengagement, and an eggshell culture.”

“Leading from hurt rather than leading from heart means we’re working our shit out on other people. And, because we’re not addressing the real driver of our pain, this behavior isn’t an occasional angry slip. Inflicting hurt rather than feeling hurt becomes a habit.”

3. What is Required of Leaders to Actually Move the Needle on Their Effectiveness?

Brené Brown suggests two answers.

First, Courage.

 “We desperately need more leaders who are committed to courageous, wholehearted leadership and who are self-aware enough to lead from their hearts, rather than unevolved leaders who lead from hurt and fear.”

“Courage is contagious. To scale daring leadership and build courage in teams and organizations, we have to cultivate a culture in which brave work, tough conversations, and whole hearts are the expectation, and armor is not necessary or rewarded.”

When we can become courageous, we are able to unlock what Brené Brown considers the key to effective leadership and being a truly positive influence: Vulnerability.

Brown defines vulnerability as our capacity for uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. And writes, “It’s not oversharing, it’s not purging, it’s not indiscriminate disclosure, and it’s not celebrity-style social media information dumps. Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process.”

In terms of vulnerability’s role in leadership effectiveness, she writes:

“Our ability to be daring leaders will never be greater than our capacity for vulnerability.”

“We know that vulnerability is the cornerstone of courage-building, but we often fail to realize that without vulnerability there is no creativity or innovation. Why? Because there is nothing more uncertain than the creative process, and there is absolutely no innovation without failure. Show me a culture in which vulnerability is framed as weakness and I’ll show a culture struggling to come up with fresh ideas and new perspectives.”

“Adaptability to change, hard conversations, feedback, problem solving, ethical decision making, recognition, resilience, and all of the other skills that underpin daring leadership are born of vulnerability.”


In all, the call to being a truly effective leader and positive influence requires that we must simultaneously

  • Awaken to our shame, hurt, and self-worth gap

  • Be courageous

It is only after these two things happen that we are able to

  • Heal our shame, hurt, and self-worth gap

  • Become vulnerable

  • And ultimately, a more effective leader

Let me encourage you to heed this call to first awaken, heal thyself, be courageous, and lead from the heart.

And, there is no better way to start than watching Brené Brown’s Netflix special or read/listen to her books.

This article is the 12th article in a series of articles all about helping people and leaders become people of positive influence, people that others want to follow.

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