Courage is defined in the Merriam-Wester dictionary as the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty”. So according to the dictionary, courage is about moving ahead in the face of adversity. But is that the entirety of what courage means in the context of leadership? What is it that courageous leaders do that’s different from the rest?
While a huge component of courage is about facing external adversity, a courageous leader is more than just about being brave enough to act or speak up in difficult situations.
Courageous leaders stand firm in their leadership space, and are rock solid in their convictions.
The proverb “Ignorance is bliss” comes from the assumption that you cannot be troubled by something if you’re unaware of it. Many leaders fall into this dangerous trap of being blissfully ignorant. And it’s a place that’s easy to stay in. It’s safe and comfortable, and it shields us from having to take risks and make hard decisions. But it’s also an easy path to complacent leadership. It robs us from taking ownership and responsibility for our leadership growth. And as a result, complacent leaders miss opportunities to increase their leadership influence and impact.
To grow as a leader, you have to embrace that courageous leadership comes from a place of inner confidence that’s grounded by a solid, realistic understanding of who you are as a person and as a leader.
Courageous leadership is about facing reality. It’s about you looking at the mirror and acknowledging the truth about your leadership, no matter how confronting. It’s about identifying how and when you’re most effective, and when you’re not the best version of yourself. To be a courageous leader, you need to have a good grasp of your primary motivations as a person and a leader. So that when the time and opportunity comes for you to stand up and speak out, you do so without hesitation as you have trust and faith in your internal guidance system. And that fuels your courage and leaves no room for fear.
Courageous leaders gladly take on the ownership and accountability for their decisions and actions.
Courageous leadership is about taking ownership. It’s about owning and appreciating your strengths and acknowledging instead of ignoring your flaws. It’s about owning who you are as a leader and having the courage to find ways to succeed as who you are, not by being someone else. So, if you’re an introvert; and almost half of the population are, don’t try faking it as an extrovert. Celebrate your introvert strengths (and there are many) and find ways to make them work in your favour.
Taking ownership also means confronting your flaws. Be smart about your leadership weak spots. Find out what they are, and learn to work around them so that they don’t become huge stumbling blocks to your success as a leader.
Courageous leadership is also about being accountable. Leaders demonstrate courage by having personal accountability for themselves, their life and their careers. They make clear choices about what they want, and they put plans and resources in place to achieve their goals. Courageous leaders also hold themselves accountable for their leadership decisions and behaviours, building on the good ones and learning from the bad ones. They set clear expectations with their team, and demonstrate courage by having difficult and uncomfortable conversations when necessary to hold their team accountable to agreed performance goals.
If ignorance is bliss, then knowledge gives you power. The roots of courageous leadership are planted firmly in self awareness, ownership and accountability. Cultivate these as your first steps towards being a courageous leader.