LeadersEdge blog
Insights for Shaping Tomorrow’s Leaders
Courageous Leadership and Why it Matters
May 24, 2022

Leadership is a role that comes with tremendous benefits for those who are called to it. It also requires a certain level of toughness, determination, and courage. Leaders are constantly challenged by the need to make difficult decisions daily, and challenge the status quo, and that requires courage.

As leaders become increasingly entrenched in their roles, they may sometimes become a bit too comfortable and casual. They can also insulate themselves from the realities of the day-to-day activities and interactions within their organizations, and they err all too often on the side of playing it safe when situations demand them to be courageous. 

What Courage Means for Leaders

When leaders lack courage, they may water down their edge and ability to inspire their people to do amazing things.

The truth is that leadership and courage are inseparable qualities. Leaders who lack courage can appear to be overly conservative and fear risk taking. Speaking and acting with confidence will only get you so far when it relates to driving tangible results and engaging our respective teams. Be mindful that the people working with you can see through the veneer; they notice when leaders are willing to be honest and courageous in various work settings, and that speaks to their character and willingness to be vulnerable and take risks.

Consider some of the qualities that separate great leaders from average ones:

  • Actively listen and create psychological safety
  • They initiate and participate in difficult conversations
  • Possess the ability to inspire people to take their efforts to new levels 
  • Handle criticism and setbacks gracefully
  • Foster accountability and ownership
  • Act and follow through decisively
  • Give credit where credit is due
  • Speak truthfully and honestly
  • Challenge the status quo

These qualities are all connected with courage. Without courage, leaders might simply do what is easiest, or what will create the fewest waves. Leaders who lack courage do not want to rock the boat. Instead, they might operate out of fear, keeping a tight grip on “the way things are” despite the promise of “the way things could be”.

Are you concerned that you are becoming a little too comfortable and a little less courageous than you need to be in your leadership role? Are you worried that your courage and boldness might alienate people or make them stop liking you? Have you noticed yourself making “safe” decisions out of fear of being challenged or called out?

How do you light a fire and turn your cautious comfort into a blaze of courage? Here are some simple and insightful tips that can help strengthen this soft skill:

#1 — Don’t Run Away from Conflict and Discomfort

Courageous leaders see conflict and discomfort as areas that are ripe for transformation and growth. They don’t retreat from difficult interactions; they welcome them. If you want to lead with courage, learn to recognize those times when you’re feeling uncomfortable and challenge yourself to lean into it instead. Move forward to the root of the issue and face it head on in a way that you will be comfortable with.

#2 — Accept Failure as Your Friend

No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to eliminate failure from your life or work. You are going to fail from time to time, and so will your people. That is where learning and growth happen, so embrace those moments as learning opportunities instead.  

#3 — Be Accountable

For you to grow from failures, you must accept them, and hold yourself accountable for your own mistakes. Show your people that you are willing to be vulnerable and learn from your perceived failures (or learning opportunities as we prefer to call them) and you will rise to a new level of leadership.

#4 — Set Standards and Expectations Boldly

Determine what’s reasonable to expect from yourself and your people, and then raise the bar just a little higher. Playing it safe with expectations and standards is a sure way to damper your courage and lose the respect of your people. Don’t be afraid to challenge your people to aim a little higher and challenge the expectations and standards you have set for yourself as their leader.

#5 — Sharpen Your Decisiveness

How often have you procrastinated, hemmed, and hawed to avoid making tough decisions? At the end of the day, people are looking to you to make timely decisions; that’s what leadership is all about. Avoid procrastination with your decision making and work on your ability to select the right option in the moment. Decisiveness is a necessary skill in our ever-changing world of work and life.

#6 — Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!

You may think that taking on more work than you can handle is courageous, but it’s a huge mistake. Letting go and learning to delegate is one of the most courageous things you can do as a leader. It requires you to trust people and let go of control, which can be incredibly scary at times. When you delegate effectively, you show people that you trust them, you build courage among your workforce and you get more done.

Does Your Leadership Need a Courage Boost?

Are you wondering how you can regain your confidence and courage? Are you curious about how you can inspire your people to work more courageously? Do you feel like you’ve lost your fire and passion as a leader? I am here to help you so please feel free to reach out and let’s talk! 

Email me today at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca or contact me at 1-855-871-3374 to start the conversation. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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