Inc.

THE UNLIKELY BUSINESS OF BEING BRENÉ

The social worker’s research launched her into the ranks of leadership gurus. Running her own business has been a little more complicated.
Therapist in Chief Companies including Pixar, IBM, and Nutanix have hired academic, author, and speaker Brené Brown to impart her wisdom on shame and vulnerability.

Brené Brown knows how to pause. She knows how to take in a question, take in a breath, and ... really, really pause.

It’s a killer conversational tool, especially if you speak, and listen, to people for a living. Which is what Brown—a licensed social worker and academic researcher turned TED Talk viral celebrity, turned best-selling author and leadership guru, and now turned founder and CEO—fundamentally does.

Her pause confers reflection and authority. It makes you feel heard. Each prolonged silence is flattering to both Brown and her conversation partner: “What a great question,” the pause says, before imbuing her eventual response with thoughtful weight.

Sitting in the airy, two-story Houston headquarters that Brown’s book sales and speaking fees have allowed her business to occupy—and to decorate with cushy Restoration Hardware furniture and the fresh flowers she buys her staff twice a month—the founder casts her mind back to life before fame. Hands clasped before her mouth and blond head bowed, as if in prayer, an occasional shake of her head punctuating her process, Brown thinks, a lot, before she speaks.

“I don’t mourn anything,” Brown says, “because … ”—and here she stops, for 11 silent seconds—“I am unapologetically ambitious, and I’m not any more ambitious now than I was then.”

However—and here she pauses again—“I don’t like being a public person.”

She is, and she isn’t. An Oprah-endorsed leadership consultant to the likes of Pixar, IBM, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Brown, 52, is extremely well known in some circles. “Brené taught me that

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