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Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart

Strong back, soft front, wild heart. Every time I hear this mantra/advice championed by vulnerability and shame researcher, Brené Brown it gives me an incredible amount of hope around what I need to do to continue to live and lead effectively.

Like any area of growth, the only regret I have is not coming across it earlier! I’m sure I could have used it a great deal especially with some of the challenging leadership experiences I have faced in the past.

Leading with a strong back, soft front and wild heart enables ‘true belonging’ in our organisations. Why? because it ensures we are leading with care and compassion.

In order for this to be the ‘norm’ in the organisations in which we lead, I believe there is work to be done.

Brown recommends that we remove the armour of our fronts (defensiveness, ego, self-righteousness, fear etc) to reveal and deal with our vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities meaning the emotions that surface when leading especially when things become tough. 

As a leader, you’ll know what I mean. There are several examples from the past when I have ‘armoured up’ mostly to avoid the fear of failing.

Strong backs are vital in terms of leadership. If we have a strong back, we lead confidently, back ourselves and have self-respect. We don’t allow others to affect or silence us. Strong backs are there to hold us up however Brown makes it clear that a strong back and soft front can’t exist without each other.

I really like the term ‘wild heart’ as it conjures up all the feelings we can experience not only in leadership but also life, for example, the need to be tough and tender, brave and afraid, demonstrating grit and grace all at the same time. A strong back, soft front and wild heart has the capacity to hold all of this.

A wild heart is about being courageous enough as a leader to say “I’m here and I’m whole just as I am part”. This is the brave part according to Brown. 

This whole, part dimension is also important as I believe it reminds us that in order to be ‘wholehearted’ we also need to be authentic, honest and true. This can be really challenging as a leader and can often require support and encouragement from others who we can trust and learn from. 

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