What would you do if there was no fear? Are you setting the stage for progress and confidence? Or are you playing it safe and waiting for the storm to pass? How present and ambitious are your goals? What is the risk of staying in your comfort zone? Are you focused on excellence? Do you want to be(come) leaders who want to leave their marks on the world or transform their organizations? Living in fear of failure and fear of the unknown has a destructive impact on the organization and kills momentum. Exhibiting leadership courage – whether it’s having an uncomfortable conversation, communicating when you don’t have all the answers, or making a decision to move ahead on a new project – can scare the heck out of you.
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” Vincent van Gogh (Dutch painter, 1853 – 1890)
Excessive fear has sent many organizational cultures into a downward spiral, the precarious state of the economy creating untold levels of anxiety. In these situations, people tend to hunker down in order to survive. This applies to management as well. Those times call for bold, confident, and courageous leadership. Leaders with the guts to step forward take some risks and lead change during downturns. Their organizations will emerge strong and healthy as the economy rebounds.
Courage comes from facing and overcoming fear head-on. And the reward for that effort could not be bigger. Life teaches us that progress requires courage. And courage can be learned. We have to be willing to get out to the edge, look at what is in the front of us, mobilize the courage, and jump. Our natural response is to run away from what frightens us. The jump may be risky, yet the decision to stay where you are – the coziness of your comfort zones – is even more so.
Courage is developed through experience. Courage is about clarity and mindfulness. The potential to overcome fear and build courage is equal inside each of us. What you do with it is entirely up to you. Every time you face a fear, you build confidence and courage. No matter the outcome, it is never as bad as your fear makes it out to be. Every time you give in to fear, that reinforces it. Sooner or later, you simply run out of opportunities to face your fears. And that leads to regret. To illustrate that point, let me tell you the story of the two wolves:
An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he told the young boy, “a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil, full of anger, sorrow, regret, greed, self-pity and false pride. The other is good, full of joy, peace, love, humility, kindness and faith. This same fight is going on inside of you, grandson… and inside of every other person on this earth.”
The grandson ponders this for a moment and then asks, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”
The old man smiled and simply said, “The one you feed.”
Native American story
Courage is the number one business virtue because it enables many other business concepts that would not be in existence without courage. For instance, innovation takes creating ground-breaking, and also tradition-defying, ideas. Or sales takes knocking on the door in the face of rejection. Courageous leadership occurs in many shapes or forms: To stand up for your values and what you believe. To speak up when no one else will. To change directions or alter your opinion. To make unpopular decisions. To jump before you are ready. To go slow in order to go fast. To stand alone in a crowd. To get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And the courage to believe in yourself as a leader to take bold actions and decisive judgment.
Basically, courageous leadership requires these three main types of courage:
- First step: If you are doing something for the first time takes courage. You might fail, you might get it wrong, or you might do something completely incredible.
- Relinquish control: Delegating means handing over control to your staff. Show your team that you trust them in a way that they can trust you will not micromanage their work.
- Speak with conviction: Speaking openly about your beliefs and ideas can be very scary. Courageous leadership means providing your team with positive and constructive feedback on a regular basis, even if what you have to say is going to make someone feel uncomfortable.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
Sir Winston Churchill (British politician, 1874 – 1965)
Leadership isn’t for cowards. Show your team and the world what you are really made of! Be bold. Stay motivated during tough times. Inspired Executives are ready to support you setting scary standards, learning to delegate or giving feedback. We are as always just a phone call or email away. Contact us.
Lead courageously, Annette.