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AONE Keynoters to Nursing Leaders: Be Brave

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   April 11, 2017

Courageous leadership springs from the clarity of one's values and willingness to step beyond one's comfort zone, say two AONE 2017 keynote speakers.

Who do you think you are? No, really. Who are you? What do you stand for and what is most important to you?

Answering these questions is a challenge for most people, acknowledged Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW, during the opening keynote address at American Organization of Nurse Executive's 2017 conference.

"How many of you right now, if I asked, would say the two most important values in my life are one and two? How many of you could name them right off the bat? For me, it's courage and faith," Brown told the audience during the March event in Baltimore.

Though the answers undoubtedly vary from person to person, having clarity of values is essential to thriving as a nurse leader. "You have to know those [values] because when things get hard, you have to know why you're putting yourself though that," she said.

And as Brown has learned through 15 years of social science research on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame—courageous leaders will experience difficulties.

One Thing is Certain
"The only guarantee I can give you is this: If you show up and be a brave leader, you will go down. You will get your ass kicked. You will be criticized. You will be made fun of. You will be put down. People will not understand you," she said.

The only way to for nurse leaders to recover from getting chewed up and spat out, is having clarity of their values.

"When you fall, you have to know why you are in there and why you are taking the risk. If your face is marred with dust and sweat and blood, and you're in the arena, and you're not clear about what took you in there, you will not survive it. You will not get back up," Brown cautioned.

Dare to be Brave

Brown spoke about how courage intersects with leadership. Contrary to common opinion, she said, courage is not about power. "It's about showing up. It's about persistence. It's about tenacity."

She named four elements that foster courage:

1.Vulnerability (uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure)

2.Clarity of Values


4.Rising skills (the ability to reset after a failure or setback)

Joan Shinkus Clark, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, CENP, FACHE, FAAN, president of AONE and senior vice president/chief nurse executive of Texas Health Resources, has relied on these skills throughout her career.

"I am persistent in trying again when I believe in the purpose of something meaningful," she said during her keynote address. 

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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