The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown outlines 10 guideposts (aka helpful practices that pique the heart, mind, and soul) with the aim of “cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I’m enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I’m also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

The book has become a primer, not only for people who want to experience more satisfaction, joy, and happiness in their lives, but for organizational leaders who understand the connection between their leadership and organizational performance. Brown’s key insights are even more important as we continue to work through the personal, interpersonal, organizational, and societal implications of dealing with a global pandemic.


Here are three of this book’s key points that seem particularly important for today’s organizational leaders:

Accept people (and yourself) and stop trying to fix people. (Guidepost 1 – Cultivate authenticity)

Organizations thrive when people feel like they belong. Belongingness isn’t about fitting in, it’s about being accepted as you truly are without fronting or covering. As a leader, stop asking the question if a person is a good cultural fit and start asking how the culture needs to expand to accept more people and accept them as they are. Make it safe for employees (and for yourself) to let go of what people think of them, enabling them to more fully feel and express who they are, so that they can redirect their energy to more productive activities.

Heroics are overrated and not sustainable. (Guidepost 7 – Cultivate play and rest)

So many people hustle for acceptance and recognition by going above and beyond. There is nothing wrong with working hard, anticipating needs, and taking initiative. But when someone continuously opts to be the team hero by always going above and beyond, they may need help with setting boundaries and taking pauses for sleep and play. The hard worker hustle leads to burnout and resentment. Instead, encourage employees to take regular breaks, to set clear boundaries regarding work commitments, and get the needed rest and play. At EMI, we stop 2 times a week to play and answer icebreaker questions which, on the surface, may seem silly but lead to insightful conversations. For example, in the past couple of weeks during our team time, everyone answered, “What’s your Petronus?” and “What’s your favorite summer memory from your childhood?”

Test, Try, Learn. (Guidepost 5 – Cultivate intuition and trusting faith)

If anything, COVID is an object lesson in uncertainty. Conditions—at work, at home, and in our communities—were constantly in flux. Unfortunately, the human brain craves certainty. To snag more comfort and security, we try to control what we can, planning and replanning (rinse and repeat to the 10th power). Or we freeze and maybe even check out. Instead, seek clarity—write down what you know and when and how answers will come. As a leader, offer clarity by over-communicating about the facts, assumptions, and the process for making decisions. Repeat these messages and offer context again and again. Help people connect the dots and pay attention to their guts, their intuition. Invite experimentation, trying out new solutions or ways of working. If the experiment fails, that’s new data that can be used to try something else, learning as you go.


Want to understand how you can lead from a more wholehearted place? Start by taking Brené Brown’s Wholehearted Inventory. The inventory will help you understand what’s blocking you from being a more effective leader—of your own life and in your organization.

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