Jan Risher

Jan Risher

I spend too much time thinking about what could change the world for the better. I also love to read. Perhaps a local group of women (of which, in full disclosure, I am a part) has come up with something that could use reading to make the world a better place.

Women United, a division of United Way of Acadiana, is asking the question, “What would happen if 1,400 women in Acadiana read the ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures?”

Brené Brown has spent 20 years studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She recently completed a seven-year study on brave leadership and says that leadership is not about titles or the corner office. She says it’s about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there and lean into courage.

She also says there’s a direct link between courage and vulnerability and that you can’t have one without the other.

Women United is a group of diverse women who form a vibrant community to focus on advocacy, education, literacy and fighting for change to improve the lives of people in Acadiana. We have selected Brown’s new book “Dare to Lead” as our Dare to Read summer project.

Between June 14 and July 14, we are working to have at least 1,400 women (men are welcome, too!) in Acadia, Lafayette, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes read and discuss Brown’s book. For that matter, we would, of course, welcome anyone anywhere to read and discuss the book!

The book offers helpful tips on making the best choices by encouraging readers to determine their two primary core values — and then base decisions on those core values. For the record, limiting core values to only two is difficult. She provides a page of more than a hundred options, and readers are welcome to suggest their own. I can pick one of my own core values easily (it’s wholeheartedness), but picking the other one meant that I had to forgo everything else, which was tough. I considered adventure and felt bad that I did not consider love, loyalty and integrity longer. Eventually, I settled on “hope.” I like that — hope and wholeheartedness, two values I can live my life pursuing.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org, says she considers the book a road map for anyone who wants to lead mindfully, live bravely and dare to lead. I say that the book is as much about living as it is about leading.

If you would like to Dare to Read Dare to Lead, please join us. Simply go to www.unitedwayofacadiana.org/dare-read and fill out the short form to register, then download the reading guides and set a date with your group to meet and discuss.

We will have an opening event at 3 p.m. June 15 at Barnes & Noble, featuring Frances McIntosh, a Brené Brown-certified facilitator. We will also have a closing event at 3 p.m. July 14 at St. Barnabas (400 Camellia Blvd.) which will feature McIntosh and Warren Hebert. Everyone interested in the book and the discussion around it is welcome to attend both events.

Groups are invited to discuss the book in one or multiple meetings — or even virtually. If you’ve never watched any of Brené Brown’s videos on YouTube or her new Netflix special, we heartily recommend that you do. She is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington-Brené Brown Endowed Chair. She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy and is the author of five No. 1 New York Times best-sellers: "The Gifts of Imperfection," "Daring Greatly," "Rising Strong," "Braving the Wilderness" and "Dare to Lead," released in October 2018. Her Ted Talk on vulnerability is one of the most watched segments, with more than 35 million views.