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Bringing vulnerable leadership to St. Charles

Author: Ben Salmon, 6/27/2019 5:17:00 PM

With Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead as a guide, Jared Narlock is bringing vulnerable leadership to St. Charles 

“Vulnerability is the absolute heartbeat of innovation and creativity. There can be zero innovation without vulnerability.” – Dr. Brené Brown

When Jared Narlock found out he had been accepted to a program that would certify him to teach the leadership principles detailed in Dr. Brené Brown’s best-selling 2018 book Dare to Lead, he thought he had beaten out hundreds – maybe thousands – of applicants from across the United States.

Then, in March, he landed in San Antonio and headed to the seminar.

“There were about 85 people in my class, and that included people from Australia, someone from the South African government, someone from Denmark,” Narlock said. “There were people from all over the world. That’s when I realized just how fortunate I was to be there.”

Narlock is a senior organizational development consultant in St. Charles Human Resources, a former VP of talent development at a health care organization and a veteran of the Air Force. In addition to professional coaching and facilitating classes for St. Charles caregivers, his job includes staying on top of the leading trends in leadership and leadership strategy. And for the past few years – after her 2010 TED Talk went viral and landed her a sit-down with Oprah Winfrey and a spot on the New York Times bestseller list – Brené Brown is the leading trend in leadership.

“She’s been known as a thought leader in that world … because she’s a social scientist who has done extensive research in these areas,” Narlock said.

Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy, and Dare to Lead is the culmination of her seven-year study on the future of leadership. In the book, she dispels common myths about modern workplace culture and provides guidance on how to achieve “daring leadership” by being vulnerable, building trust, taking responsibility and practicing empathy.

Brown believes we are on the brink of a major shift in how organizations think about leadership, and Narlock agrees.

“The traditional ‘I’m going to direct and tell’ approach that a lot of organizations have had for so many years isn’t going to be able to thrive, especially with the workforce coming in,” he said. “Just like in other areas of our life, we need vulnerable leadership in the workplace – people who are willing to connect (and) to be innovative in the thought process about how work gets done, and who know that people really are our greatest asset and they’ll push the business forward.”

Narlock uses a very simple example to illustrate: “There are ways that we ‘armor up,’ and lots of times you think of armor as a good thing because you need it to go into battle,” he said. “But the most vulnerable leaders are taking their armor off. They’re daring to do it differently.”

In San Antonio, Narlock spent two and a half days receiving direct instruction from Brown and working through the Dare to Lead curriculum with his small group of about eight people, both as a learner and a facilitator. Because Brown set aside a certain number of seats for people from nonprofit organizations, St. Charles paid a reduced rate for Narlock to attend. In turn, he is able to conduct the training for anyone employed by the health system.

“What made this unique and different from anything I’d ever seen before is the feeling aspect,” he said. “There’s thinking about things and reflecting and maybe doing something, but what she’s been able to bring into this (is) you’re engaging in the material in a feeling process of self-reflection and self-exploration that I haven’t seen done in material like this before.”

This week, Narlock is wrapping up his first two classes filled with about 30 leaders from across the health system, and St. Charles’ executive team is going through the training as well. A third class slated for August filled up before it was even promoted, he said.

The executive team has also indicated a desire to extend the training to all leaders throughout St. Charles, Narlock said. Narlock believes the effect of the training will be profound throughout St. Charles.

“This affects our teams, it affects patient care, it affects the way we interact with patients’ families and the way we interact with each other,” he said. “It’s giving our leaders the opportunity to reflect, to take action and to shape themselves as a leader. I had one say to me, ‘I can’t go back on what I’m learning.’”

Practically speaking, Dare to Lead’s principles should challenge the status quo at St. Charles, leading to tough conversations but also deeper trust relationships, stronger bonds and an army of leaders who model vulnerability in the workplace for their teams.

“There were some wonderful leaders already leading the way in the organization and  it’s exciting to see them challenging themselves and saying, ‘It’s OK to do this differently,’” Narlock said. “If we bring that to our 300+ leaders and they turn around and pass that along to the caregivers, there’s no doubt that when we look at our True North 2026 metrics, we’re going to be well on our way to that 100% engagement goal and it’s going to impact some of the other metrics as well.”