Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Powerful, and Authentic Self to Get the Results You Need

Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Powerful, and Authentic Self to Get the Results You Need

by Kimberly Davis


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This book will help readers be brave.

​While we may think that we need to follow some kind of prescription to get results, the most amazing leaders are those who dare to be their true selves, powerfully. People want to give them their best. But in a business world that’s so competitive and uncertain, how do you connect with others more authentically to tap into their illusive want? 

Brave Leadership is the essential guide for leaders in today’s ever-shifting world. Wherever you are in your leadership journey—new, seasoned, young, or old—if you aspire to be the best leader you can be, then this book is for you. It will help you

• Uncover your barriers to brave
• Escape overwhelm and frustration and learn to manage stress and anxiety
• Prepare for high-stakes meetings and conversations
• Have the influence you want to have
• Set the direction of your career
• Connect powerfully 
• Feel more confident, courageous, satisfied, and purposeful
• Tap into the want of the people you lead to get the results you need

On a quest to make these powerful conversations more accessible, professional-actress-turned-leadership-educator Kimberly Davis shares the transformative tools she uses in her workshops to help thousands of leaders worldwide. Drawing from years of working with leaders of all experience levels and industries and the latest research in psychology, sociology, business, and the arts, this provocative and inspiring book bridges traditional business how-to with a personal development approach to demystify what it takes to be the brave leader you were born to be.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626344334
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 01/16/2018
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 619,813
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis teaches leadership programs worldwide. Most notably is her OnStage Leadership program, which runs in New York City and Dallas, Texas, as well as in organizations across the nation. She currently teaches at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business' Executive Education Program and partner with Southern Methodist University in teaching for the Bush Institute's Women's Initiative Fellowship program (empowering female leaders from the middle east) and for the National Hispanic Corporate Council. 

Read an Excerpt


Who Are You as a Leader?

Welcome. Whether our journey together lasts for years or just one day, I can't tell you how excited I am to take this first step with you.


Who you are as a leader has an impact. Like it or not, your behavior and actions (whether conscious or unconscious) have an effect on the people around you. Their decisions and the way they feel and perform are in direct correlation to how you show up in the world. Who is affected by your ability to lead? Your customers? Your direct reports? Your boss? Your colleagues? Your shareholders? Your students? Your patients? Your team? Your family? Your community? These are the people who rely on you to be and bring your best. Their life is influenced by your performance. Picture these people in your mind. This is your audience.

Silence fills the air. My participants awkwardly shift in their chairs, glancing at one another, stifling uncomfortable giggles. Not knowing what to expect is nerve-racking. I take the stage and look at them. My stomach flutters. My fingers tingle. It's not anxiety; it's that I know what is in store for the day and I can barely contain my excitement. But I must. I must harness my most serious self. I am their casting director. This is serious business.

"As a leader, you are always on stage, as people are always paying attention," I say (seriously). "They're paying attention to what you do and to what you don't do — to what you say and, maybe even more so, to what you don't say. And every minute of every day, the people in your audience either cast you in their hearts and minds, or they don't."

The stakes are that high.

"My job is to cast you. I get to choose."

There are a lot of different ways that people define leadership. In my mind, it's pretty simple. A leader is someone people want to follow, not have to follow. They want to be a part of what you're doing, not have to be a part of what you're doing. They want to be there. They want to give you their best. They choose it. They choose you.

Leadership is a casting decision.

Do the people in your audience cast you in their hearts and minds as someone they want to follow?

If it is true, that as a leader you are always on stage, then that's a pretty vulnerable place to be, yes? You. In the spotlight. People watching. Deciding. Judging. To be and bring your most confident, powerful, and authentic self in the face of that kind of vulnerability is likely the hardest thing anyone can hope to do, especially in the workplace. It will require courage and a sense of responsibility beyond measure. It will require unwavering commitment and self-appraisal. It will require you to know and expose your most authentic self. It will require action in the face of the unknown and compassion in the face of frustration. It will require an awareness of the impact you're having and a surrender of control that may feel next to impossible. It will require you to step out of the quagmire of your fears and move forward when that's the last thing you want to do. It will require you to be brave.

Brave leadership is not for wimps.

But it's also not reserved for a privileged few. One of my intentions with this book is to demystify the whole leadership conversation. Many people seem to think that great leaders are somehow different than they are. I can't tell you how many inspiring, committed, influential people I've met who've said something akin to, "Yes, I'm the boss (or "Yes, I'm in charge of ..." or "Yes, I run a team ..."), but I don't really consider myself a leader!"

My goal is to help you see that you can be a great leader — a brave leader — if you choose to be. Whether you're the CEO of your company or a team leader at work, school, or in your family or community, you can lead bravely and have an impact.

I've had the great fortune to have long, meaningful conversations with thousands of leaders from all over the world, and I can tell you, they are no different than you. Most of them have not led charmed lives. Most of them have experienced intense periods of self-doubt. They've had heartaches and worries and fears like you. Some of them are quite well educated, with a string of impressive degrees on their resumes, and some of them have learned all they know in the trenches. Some of them are incredibly intellectual and some are more street smart. They're human beings like you and me. They are people who, sometimes by choice and sometimes reluctantly, have found themselves at the helm.

What I can tell you is that your unique path has set the foundation for who you are as a leader. It's how you leverage what you've learned from your past, how you act in the present, and how you shape your future that will determine your outcome. Goodness knows, my path has been anything but "traditional," but it has made me who I am, has given me a unique perspective and opportunities to lead in ways that I could never have imagined.

What is possible for you is often way beyond your vision for yourself.

I'm not going to kid you. This journey that is brave leadership is not going to be easy. It is going to force you to look at yourself perhaps more closely than ever before. Together we'll explore your barriers to brave — what might be unconsciously keeping you from being and bringing your best, real self powerfully to the workplace. We'll delve into mindset, look at your reactions and behaviors, and challenge how you experience yourself and the world around you.

As we move into Pushing Through to Brave, we'll identify specific actions you can take to overcome your barriers, uncover what drives you at your core, and put yourself on an active path to get the results you want.

Finally, I'll leave you with tools to create and sustain the brave new world you deserve.

What I know to be true is that whatever leadership role you may hold, now or in the future, you are a person first. Who you are as a leader and how you behave as a leader is influenced by who you are and how you behave in life. I learn as much about who I am as a leader from my interactions with my family and community as I do in the workplace. People are people, not titles. Don't be surprised when the stories I share venture outside corporate walls, as learning takes place all around us if we pay attention. In an effort to write a book about leadership and business, I don't want to rob you of life's classroom. Instead, I invite you to explore how your whole life influences the way you show up and lead.

This will demand a lot from you, and in exchange it will open up the possibility of full engagement, self-acceptance, ownership of your future, and incredible results. It will help you be braver. If, of course, you do the work.

Brave is an active path.

Many people, especially in the learning and development world, call the kind of work I do transformation work, but I don't see it that way. I think of the work I do as excavation work because I believe that everything you need to be a brave leader is already there. You simply need to get real about what you're doing that's working and what's not, learn how to make powerful and often minimal adjustments, and put them into action. I promise I'll be there every step of the journey.

I recently finished a coaching conversation with a senior leader who so vividly stands out in my mind. She reminds me of a young Maya Angelou because of the grace and poise and strength she brings to a space. Even in our short time together, I found her insightful and articulate. She is fearless in broaching difficult conversations. She has a big heart tempered by her engineer's logic. She is intelligent and wise. But she had no idea that these were her gifts. After our conversation, she said, "Thank you. I feel more confident. More sure of myself."

"I only said what's real," I replied. "This is who you've been all along. These are your superpowers!"

That is the work we are here to do together — to identify and leverage the unique qualities about you that make you special, while minimizing the ones that get in your way of being and bringing your most confident, powerful, and authentic self to the world. For me it's something worth fighting for. I'm glad you're here to join the fight.

Key Takeaways

* Leadership is not about title, position, or power. A leader is someone people want to follow, not have to follow.

* To be a brave leader, it's critical that you begin asking yourself, Do the people I need to follow me want to follow me?


A Whole New World

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.


Happy Anniversary!" I wrote in an email to my past-participant-turned-friend, Matt. He had reached out to me shortly after he attended one of my sessions, full of excitement, and in the months that followed, we had forged a friendship over shared blogs and common viewpoints. I treasure our conversations, however infrequent, and always feel energized after we chat. I finished typing, "I can't believe it's been a year ..."

Within fifteen minutes of sending the email, my phone rang. Wait a minute, I thought, upstate New York ... Don't I know this number? It couldn't be ...

"Matt? Is that you?"

"I got your email, so I just thought I'd call." I could hear him smiling through the phone.

"It's great to hear your voice! What a surprise! I'm so glad you called! Can you believe it's been a year? Okay, so tell me what's changed?" I asked him. "Since we worked together, what's different?"

"Everything's different!" He laughed into the phone. "You know how when you're talking about something you really love, how easy it is to show excitement and how that excitement is kind of contagious? When you're passionate about something, it doesn't feel hard. It just flows. It doesn't feel like work. Well now, that's how it is all the time — even with the stuff I'm not so passionate about. I don't get nervous or stressed in the same way. It's like I can be me — and that's cool because I'm much better at everything when I can be the real me. I can be that easygoing, influential, passionate guy, even when I'm doing normal routine work stuff. Because now I know, it's really not about the project or the meeting or whatever it is I might be doing — I'm up to something much bigger. You know, purpose."

As I type this, I'm smiling, thinking about my inspirational friend, his words echoing in my head, perfectly describing what it's like to be your most "confident, powerful, and authentic self" — my definition of brave. "I'm much better at everything when I can be the real me ... it's really not about the project, or the meeting, or whatever it is ... I'm up to something much bigger. You know, purpose."

I've had the opportunity to work with hundreds of leaders and aspiring leaders from all over the place who are smart and talented and truly care about doing a good job. But many of them feel a bit lost and confused, sometimes frustrated, and oftentimes completely overwhelmed — and for good reason. The leadership game has changed tremendously over the past ten to fifteen years, but few people talk about it and even fewer model the way. It's hard to find good role models at the precipice of a new era. The rules of the past no longer apply. What it means to be brave at work today requires more of us than ever before, which can feel incredibly scary and uncomfortable. No longer can we compartmentalize who we are at work and who we are outside of work, because "who we are" — for real — shines through. And if who we really are doesn't connect with the people we lead, we can't get anything done.

For real.


In the past, work was much more predictable. There were clear systems in place — job descriptions and reporting structures — that made a leader's job fairly routine. At one time, you could tell people what to do and they'd pretty much do it. And if they didn't ... "heads are gonna roll!" You could put the fear of God in them and the problem would go away. It was a simple paycheck exchange. A manager's job was to make sure that people did what they were told to do by the time they were told to get it done. And until fairly recently, this command-and-control leadership would have given you the results you were after.

If you tried that today, you'd pay a price that you may not even see ...

Once upon a time, you'd leave school, get a job, and could expect to spend your happily ever after working at the same company until you collected your gold watch and lived off your pension. You'd punch in and punch out, slowly moving up the ladder. You'd go to work every day, and in exchange for your time and your loyalty you could expect something called security. Talk to any millennial you meet about security at work and they'll laugh. In the job market they entered, there's no such thing. Security as it existed ten years ago no longer exists today. While the Bureau of Labor and Statistics won't estimate the number of career changes people make in a lifetime (as they've never been able to reach a "consensus ... among economists, sociologists, career-guidance professionals, and other labor market observers about the appropriate criteria that should be used for defining careers and career changes"), industry experts believe that the average worker changes jobs between ten and fifteen times in a lifetime. Popular job sites claim that "job searching ... has become an integral part of everyday work life."

It is a different world. If you haven't been through it personally, you likely have vicariously. We all know people who've experienced the pain and anguish that comes with massive layoffs. It's called downsizing (or right-sizing). The business world has become a big Pac-Man game of the "big guys" consuming the "little guys," entire industries being gobbled up by a handful of players. Redundancies are eliminated, and jobs are sent overseas. Every effort is being made to make products and services less expensive so companies can stay competitive in today's global marketplace. New technologies are replacing human beings. No longer can any of us assume that we're going to be working for the same company for our entire adult life. And with that knowledge comes a sense of insecurity and a lack of loyalty. People feel vulnerable. They don't know what they can count on and what they can't. They don't know who is in their corner and who is not. Trust in the workplace is at an all-time low. And the vacuum of safety sparks an instinct for survival. It's every man and woman for themselves. One foot in and one foot out. Just in case ...

Take this reality and combine it with the fact that global companies designed to meet global marketplace needs are erasing borders, marrying cultures and languages at such a rapid speed that differences are overlooked and underestimated.

Daily, there are new technologies to adopt and adapt. It's like parenting — the second you feel like you've figured it out, get your rhythm down, and finally feel like you know what you're doing, BAM! The game has changed, and nothing you once did works anymore. Ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty form the backdrop for stress, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed. Many people at work are not in their happy place.

Yet this does nothing to curb expectations. When do we want things done? YESTERDAY! If you move too slowly, it's game over.

The workday never ends. Emails zip back and forth past the dinner hour into bedtime. iPhones are perched on our nightstands, poised and ready to respond at a moment's notice.

I can't help but picture someone caught up in the eye of a tornado spinning recklessly out of control, their desk, laptop, phones, and sticky notes swirling around them in the debris, perilously close to knocking them out.

But while you're in the midst of spinning, be sure to think strategically, creatively, and bring your whole brain to work, because all repetitive, routine tasks that you could, at one time, simply "phone in" have been eliminated. And if you're feeling frustrated that so much is being asked of you, you can always tweet about it or IM someone or maybe write a blog and then share it on Facebook or influence others on LinkedIn or post a lovely review on Or take an Instagram selfie of yourself in your not-so-happy place at work and pin it.

You almost have to laugh at the absurdity of it all. We can all recognize the truth in the craziness — how so much has changed in such a short amount of time — and yet, when you look at what many leaders are doing, it's the same ole thing. They're applying old rules to the new workplace and not getting the results they need. There is another way.


Excerpted from "Brave Leadership"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Kimberly Davis.
Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I What is Brave?

1 Who Are You as a Leader? 9

2 A Whole New World 15

3 Dealing with Real 21

4 Redefining Leadership 27

5 Unlocking the Want 33

Part II Barriers to Brave

6 Disappearing Genius 41

7 What Do You See? 57

8 Step Out of the Box 65

9 Vulnerable You 69

10 Where Are You… Really? 79

Part III Pushing Through to Brave

11 A Matter of Focus 87

12 Bull's-eye 95

13 Goals Are Not Enough 101

14 Action from the Inside Out 111

15 For the Sake of What? 117

16 What's Your Intention? 131

17 The Magic If 143

18 Own Your Power 153

19 Connection Is the Game 183

20 Six Steps to Prepare for Impact 195

21 Presenting Bravely 203

Part IV A Brave New World

22 Own Your Mess 235

23 Cultivating Brave 245

24 A Brave Legacy 257

The Brave Leadership Manifesto 267

Be a Work in Progress 269

Acknowledgments 275

Notes 279

Index 283

About the Author 297

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