Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts. (2018). Brené Brown. New York, NY: Random House, 320pp., $28.00 (Hardcover) ISBN: 9780399592522, https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/557595/dare-to-lead-by-brene-brown-phd-lmsw/

Review by Susan Taffe Reed, Ph.D., Undergraduate Deans Office, Dartmouth College

Academic advisors foster student leadership and serve as leaders on college campuses in a variety of capacities. Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts (2018) by Brené Brown, Ph.D. is a powerful resource for building leadership skills. This book introduces useful ideas that academic advisors can adapt for engagement with both colleagues and students. Brown’s leadership model takes a uniquely holistic and personal approach that challenges common, long-held beliefs about good leadership. A dynamic correlation between courage and vulnerability surfaces in Brown’s research, which includes 400,000 pieces of data (2018, p. 3). She argued that, “Courage is a collection of four skill sets that can be taught, observed, and measured” (Brown 2018, pp. 10-11). These skill sets address areas of vulnerability, values, trust, and resiliency. As educators, these themes arise in our work with students every day.

This book resonates with the relational components of the “NACADA academic advising core competencies model,” particularly Relational component 2, “create rapport and build academic advising relationships” (NACADA, 2017). Known for her research on empathy, Brown shared examples of effective communication of empathy for building trust (2018, pp. 136-161) that will be especially valuable to advisors who want to enhance support for students experiencing challenging circumstances.

Brown argued that transparent communication is key to building relationships and establishing expectations, put succinctly, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind” (2018, p. 48). Academic advisors know this all too well, as advisees often seek guidance when they encounter ambiguity. Advisors assist them by providing clarity, guidance, and support for independent decision making. This aspect of the book connects with Relational component 6, “facilitate problem solving, decision-making, meaning-making, planning, and goal setting” (NACADA, 2017).

Brown called educators to “create a space in our schools and classrooms where all students can walk in and, for that day or hour, take off the crushing weight of their armor, hang it on a rack, and open their heart to truly being seen” (2018, p. 13). Her objective aligns with the caring and empowerment “NACADA core values of academic advising” (NACADA, 2017). In Brown’s leadership model, professionals bring their whole selves to their work and effectively engage with their values, vulnerabilities, and even fears. “Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them” (Brown, 2018, p. 186), she wrote. To accomplish this, she walked readers through a process of aligning their work with their core values (Brown, 2018, pp. 187-197).

Brown effectively utilizes storytelling to translate her research into accessible prose. As this book is intended for a broad general audience, readers in the field of academic advising might find their interest in data from specific research findings unsatisfied. Brown’s development of terminology empowers readers with vocabulary to name specific behaviors. Conversely, some readers may find new terminology initially cumbersome and a barrier to engaging with the text. The downloadable glossary and terms written in bold throughout the text are helpful.

Brown supplements her book with an assortment of free online resources, including a read-along workbook, glossary, book recommendations, videos, assessments, checklists, art, a webpage hub designed specifically for educators, and more. Given the hands-on material Brown provides, professionals can process the information on their own or with colleagues. The workbook exercises facilitate reflection on work, professionalism, and relationships with colleagues that could be used for office retreats. The skills taught in this book will empower academic advisors with best practices in leadership that they can employ in support of students. Dare to Lead is highly recommended for all academic advisors.


Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. New York, NY:

Random House.

Brown, B. (2019). Dare to lead glossary: Key language, skills, tools and practices [Supplemental material]. Retrieved from https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/workbook-art-pics-glossary/

Brown, B. (2019). Dare to lead: Read-along workbook [Supplemental material]. Retrieved from https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/workbook-art-pics-glossary/

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx 

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx


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