McDonald Graham, Psychology At Work
  • Drs. McDonald and Graham

Announcing Dare to Lead

Updated: Sep 10, 2019


I have been a huge fan of Brené Brown’s work since I saw her first TED talk --The Power of Vulnerability -- in 2011. I was deeply convinced that the content of her video was so fundamental to our humanity, that I immediately knew I needed to learn more about her work. I even made my kids (ages 10 and 12 at the time) watch her TED talk because I wanted to infuse our family culture with this concept of embracing vulnerability and learning how to manage it during the most vulnerable of all life stages: MIDDLE SCHOOL. But I wasn’t done yet.


I proceeded to read her first book, the Gifts of Imperfection, watch her second TED talk in 2012 -- Listening to Shame -- and devoured her second (truly game changing) book, Daring Greatly. In my clinical practice, I routinely recommended her books and TED talks to clients who were wrestling with being vulnerable, or trying to extricate themselves from the shadowy grip of shame. In 2013, I got to see her speak right here in Birmingham, AL at Samford University. In short, I have followed her career very closely and cheered with joy as she brought her message to larger and more diverse audiences.

Fast forward to 2018: I’ve read all of her books at least twice, watched her TED talks multiple times, and incorporated (along with my business partner and fellow Brené fan, Dr. Lisa Graham) her research and teaching into our flagship leadership development program, Transforming Success®. In the eight years I spent reading about her research and listening to the way that she teaches it, I became even more certain that her life’s work represents a link that is missing for so many of my clients. She is able to translate complex topics of shame, vulnerability, trust, empathy, and resilience into language that makes it easily accessible. These are the issues at the core of so many common human struggles. I believe that everyone should know about it and have a chance to immerse themselves in this work. So, imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled upon the news that Brené herself would be training facilitators to deliver her Dare to Lead curriculum in 2019. I swear it was the Universe, rising up to meet me. I was staying in a hotel in St. Louis and happened to grab one of those free magazines they have in the lobby because it had Brené’s picture on the cover. The article explained that she wanted to bring her research on leadership to as many organizations as possible by providing a program to train facilitators. Of course, Lisa and I applied to training program as soon as the portal opened and waited for several fraught months to see if we were was accepted. I was much more nervous about it than I care to admit. I knew they were selecting a very small cohort and there was a reasonable chance I might not be chosen. The story I was telling myself was “I’m not going to be accepted -- I am not the kind of person they are really looking for…”


I was in the dressing room at a local women’s clothing store on December 14, 2018, doing some shopping with my daughter for a holiday party, when got a text from Lisa that she had been accepted to the Dare to Lead training program. I was so excited and happy for her but figured that since I hadn’t yet heard anything, it meant that they had notified the accepted participants first and would be sending out the “thank you for your interest, but we regret to inform you” emails a bit later. I was deflated. Then as I was trying to regroup and move on, an email popped up on my phone from the Dare to Lead team. My hands were literally trembling as I opened the email. Surprise! I was accepted to the very first cohort, scheduled to take place in March 2019! You better believe that I got my hotel and plane reservations and paid the fee for the training as soon as I got home that night, before they could discover that they had made a mistake. I did all the prep work, told everyone I knew that I was going, and savored the anticipation leading up to the training. I went back and re-read all her books. Again. I was all in.


The training was all I thought it might be and more. We spent 3 days drinking from the firehose. Y’all, in case you are wondering, Brené is just as smart, funny, and warm in person as she is in interviews and in her talks. She and her team were dedicated to helping us get this knowledge “into our bones” so that we could live it and teach it. I spent three days with a room full of creative, passionate, deeply caring people who literally had come from all over the WORLD to learn how to bring this work back to their organizations and to their communities. I came home excited, materials in hand, fully ready to incorporate this knowledge into my practice and life.


It has been both a joy and a labor of love to do the hard work of getting this curriculum into not only my bones, but my connective tissue, the deepest recesses of my brain, and into my very heart and soul. For inspiration, I have referred back again and again to the Teddy Roosevelt “Man in the Arena” quote that was life changing for Brené:


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or how the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”

–Theodore Roosevelt, 1910


It has been long process that has led to my decision that I, too, want to be brave, dare greatly, and step into the “arena.” I have been intensely immersed in this curriculum for the past 5 months and am ready to emerge to bring the work to as many people as I can. I have Lisa, my brilliant business partner and tried-and-true friend of 18 years by my side, my family and colleagues cheering me on, and the ever-present well of collective energy and passion of Brené’s team, my fellow trained facilitators, and millions of fans of her work to draw upon.


Deep breath. I am stepping into the arena. I hope to see you there.

-Dr. Julie McDonald


#BreneBrown #Arena #DareToLead #DrJulieMcDonald #McDonaldGraham

McDonald Graham, Psychology at Work, is a certified WBENC Women's Business Enterprise.
McDonald Graham, Psychology at Work, is a certified WBENC Women's Business Enterprise.