AUSTIN, Texas — Internationally acclaimed researcher, author and speaker Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, is bringing her influence and thought leadership to The University of Texas at Austin to facilitate a new leadership training program centered around courage, trust and vulnerability. As a visiting professor of management at the McCombs School of Business, Brown, who earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from UT Austin in 1995, will implement institution-wide courage-building training based on the principles and actionable strategies she lays out in her most recent No. 1 New York Times bestselling book “Dare to Lead.” UT Austin will be the first university to adopt Brown’s program as an institutional initiative.
“Dare to Lead” is the culmination of a seven-year study looking at the future of leadership and the barriers and obstacles to developing braver leaders and more courageous cultures. It draws on interviews with 150 global leaders, program evaluations from Brown’s courage-building programs, data from her leadership study, and instruments developed and tested with MBA students from top U.S. business schools.
“We’re thrilled that Brené is bringing her extraordinary leadership and scholarship back to The University of Texas — where her academic career began,” said UT President Gregory L. Fenves. “‘Dare to Lead’ will empower individuals throughout our university community to lead with their values and make bold choices to further UT’s mission to educate and serve.”
Brown’s interest in leadership grew out of her early doctoral work in systems change management and organizational behavior. For the past 10 years, she has spent most of her time studying how people work and lead. In organizations ranging from Pixar, Google and The Gates Foundation to nonprofits, NGOs and U.S. Special Forces, Brown has found that leaders need more specific skills related to courage and vulnerability, including how to have tough conversations, how to hold themselves and others accountable, how to reset after failure or setback, and how to build trust.
The approach laid out in “Dare to Lead” has been facilitated in hundreds of organizations around the world, with more than 20,000 individuals having completed the training.
“As we think about increasing our research efforts with ‘Dare to Lead’ and building more tools for teams and organizations to use as they embed courage-building skills across their cultures, I can’t think of a better partner than Texas McCombs,” said Brown. “They’re smart, innovative, and already doing important work in this area. I’m also a diehard Longhorn.”
During the next year, members of the UT community, including students, faculty members and staff members, will be offered the opportunity to participate in “Dare to Lead” training. Academic leadership, including the deans of the colleges and schools, will be the first cohort. With McCombs, Brown is developing a plan for eventual corporate engagement as well.
“Texas McCombs and Brené are a perfect fit,” said Dean Jay Hartzell. “Our curriculum is oriented to prepare leaders for increasingly dynamic and rapidly changing environments, and our Center for Leadership and Ethics fuels our efforts via powerful research. As she rolls out her program at the university, the opportunity for new collaborative research efforts with her faculty colleagues here at the business school is tremendous.”
Besides “Dare to Lead,” Brown is the author of four other No. 1 New York Times bestsellers: “The Gifts of Imperfection,” “Daring Greatly,” “Rising Strong” and “Braving the Wilderness.” Her 2010 TED talk — “The Power of Vulnerability” — is one of the top five most viewed TED talks, with more than 45 million views. She is also the first researcher to have a filmed talk on Netflix. “The Call to Courage” special debuted on the streaming service April 19, 2019.
“Brené’s transformative ideas have already changed the language of leadership around the world, and her work will have a powerful impact in our community and beyond,” said Maurie McInnis, executive vice president and provost. “Her academic contributions to leadership have made an enormous impact in how we think about leadership, and I look forward to working together to enhance the culture of leadership across campus.”