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 this, courage is about forging ahead in the face of adversity. But courageous leadership is more than just being brave enough to act in difficult situations.
Courageous leaders stand firm in their leadership space, and are rock solid in their convictions.
The proverb “Ignorance is bliss” presumes that you cannot be troubled by something if you’re unaware of it. Many leaders fall into the dangerous trap of being blissfully ignorant. It’s safe and comfortable, but also an easy path to complacent leadership. It robs us from taking ownership of our leadership growth. As a result, complacent leaders diminish 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 understanding of who you are as a person and as a leader.
Courageous leadership is about facing reality. It’s about 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 must have a good grasp of your primary motivations as a person and a leader. So that when the time comes for you to stand up and speak out, you do so without hesitation as you trust your internal guidance system.
Courageous leadership is about taking ownership. It’s about 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.
Courageous leadership is also about being accountable. Leaders demonstrate courage by having personal accountability for themselves, their life and their careers. They hold themselves accountable for their leadership decisions and behaviours. 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 firmly planted in self awareness, ownership and accountability. Cultivate these as your first steps towards being a courageous leader.