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True Leadership Takes Courage

Moving through the fear of being embarrassed, standing up for what you value and believe in, and being willing to be wrong, takes courage, and courage is a game-changer in leadership. If you spend any time listening to or reading the news, courage seems to be at an all-time low these days, and yet I meet and work with courageous leaders every day.  These are leaders who say what needs to be said, who face their fears and move through them, who ask for feedback relentlessly, and who take action where it’s needed.

Many of my leadership clients have similar concerns about whether they are truly aligned with their organization’s culture, and how they need to behave in order to effectively work for the Emperor… you know, the one who has no clothes, but whose power and approach inhibits everyone from saying so.  (Sometimes my clients are the Emperor, and they want someone to whisper to them that they really could use some wardrobe help.)

Here are a few thoughts about finding the courage that you need to do what you need to do in the best interest of your team, the mission of the organization and your customers, as well as staying true to yourself:

  1. Courage requires resilience and deep self-knowledge.  That means that you have to take care of yourself, get enough rest and the right fuel, and find time to read and reflect (think!) in order to be present for what’s being asked of you. The strongest leaders I know make time to think every day, and I am pretty sure that they have the same 24 hours that you and I do.
  2. Courage requires strong decision-making ability and the ability to assess and learn about the environment around you. If you are continually stuck asking yourself, “What’s the right thing to do?” and your decisions take too long, go back to #1 and find time to think and reflect on what you value, what the outcomes will be of your decisions, and how resilient you are to advocate for your decision. If you know yourself, you will also know what holds you back in your decision-making ability and style, and asking for help to adapt takes courage.
  3. Courage means knowing your blind spots and asking for support from others. This also means staying in conversations that are uncomfortable in order to truly listen and understand what others are saying.  The Emperor, if willing, could use a friend, a confidante, or an advisor. Don’t be the Emperor – ask for feedback relentlessly, and be open to whatever you are given.
  4. Courage requires discipline and accountability, first and foremost for you as a leader. If you can’t make time for yourself every day, it will be tough for you to find the energy and the opportunity to be successfully courageous.  Without thought and preparation, launching yourself into a conversation with the Emperor could be career limiting.

Reacquaint yourself with what you value, find humor in your embarrassment, and humility in the conversations that you have. Be fierce in forging relationships, especially the one with yourself. Courage rests in that place.