The Truth about Courage and Leadership

Consider the job of a police officer. Every day, he or she suits up in an effort to protect the community served. More often than not, risk is involved, even to the point of putting one’s life on the line, all for the sake of the job. But to that officer, the job is well worth it. He or she is often led by a passion for the position; with the knowledge that the risk taken often comes with immeasurable reward.

The jobs of police officers, firemen, and astronauts may be the extreme when it comes to courage on the job; but every job, and especially those of leaders, demands courage. Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officers of N2growth, said, “Courage is a trait possessed by all great leaders. So much so, that leadership absent courage is nothing short of a farce.”

Simply put, courage means taking on something with a risk because of the passion you have for it and what will come of it—whether it be a financial reward or simply the accomplishment of getting it done.

For the CEO or business owner/entrepreneur in particular, courage is a mandate. It’s what we need to face and overcome fears. If we don’t have it, then it’s nearly impossible to face many of the risks inherent in business. You may be afraid to expand offices into a new city, launch a new product or service, or commit to that IPO—after all, there is a risk of failure in all of it. But, without the risk, there’s little chance of success…there’s no real room for major breakthroughs, especially when you stay with the status quo just because you know it’s safe.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. - Nelson Mandela

Keep in mind that your actions affect not only you, but everyone who looks up to you as well. People are watching you and if you don’t face your fears in order to move forward, that’s exactly the example you’re setting for everyone else; and a business filled with cowardly people will go nowhere, fast.

The good news is that courage is a trait that can be learned.  Here are 5 tips:

  1. Believe in yourself. The most important aspect of courage is a belief that you can do what it takes to overcome the risk involved. Even if it’s a big challenge with external risk (like IPOs), you must still have faith in your own ability, as well as those of your coworkers and the company itself.
  2. Don’t go it alone. You got to the CEO or other senior level position because of your obvious leadership capabilities. Now’s the time to use it by empowering others to use their own talents. Don’t be a martyr in the corner office; allow everyone to do their own part and you share the risks and rewards together.
  3. Face the negative. Addressing issues head-on is a courage-building skill unlike any other. It’s uncomfortable and has a tendency to leave hurt feelings in its wake. Not addressing it, however, means keeping the negativity around, and that’s bad for business.
  4. Accept responsibility. Just because you’re the big boss doesn’t place you above reproach. Taking public accountability for your mistakes takes courage. It will show your people just how human you really are—something they’ll be able to identify with—and encourage them to do the same.
  5. Give credit where it’s due. Praising someone may not appear to take courage, but it does. It requires you to do more than just stay quiet…pushing those communication skills and forcing you to interact.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.” ? Maya Angelou