No one aspires to leadership because they want life and work to be easy. Leadership is a role that comes with a number of tremendous benefits for those who are called to it. It also requires a certain level of toughness and determination. It requires people to make difficult decisions on a daily basis. And it requires courage.
As leaders become increasingly entrenched in their roles, they can become a bit too comfortable and casual. And they err all too often on the side of playing it safe when situations actually demand them to be courageous. In fact, Dr. Geil Browning, Founder and CEO of Emergenetics, wrote about the challenges that arise when leaders do not step outside of their comfort zones a few months back.
This doesn’t happen to all leaders, but it happens enough for me to be alarmed by the transformation. I am often struck by how quickly a leader can lose the courage that fueled their rise to leadership in the first place!
This is a challenge I see in organizations everywhere. Thankfully, I believe there are opportunities for leaders to regain the spark of courage that inspires people and allows them to drive their organizations to greatness.
What Courage Means for Leaders
When leaders lose their intrepidity, they can lose the ability to inspire their people to do amazing things.
The truth is that leadership and courage are inseparable qualities. Sure, leaders who lack courage may speak with authority, and they may be able to leverage their status in ways that drive tangible results. However, the people who work for them can see through the veneer; they notice when a leader operates with a courage deficit, and it has an impact on how these employees approach their jobs.
Consider some of the qualities that separate great leaders from merely adequate ones:
- The ability to initiate — and participate in — difficult conversations
- The ability to inspire people to take their efforts to new levels
- The ability to handle criticism and setbacks gracefully
- The ability to create accountability among the workforce
- The ability to act — and follow through — decisively
- The ability to give credit where credit is due
- The ability to tell the truth
- The ability to listen, especially when the truth is difficult to hear
- The ability to challenge the status quo
These qualities are all connected with courage. Without bravery, leaders 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 may keep 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 daring than you ought to be in your leadership role? Are you worried that your boldness might alienate people or make them stop liking you? Have you noticed yourself making “safe” decisions out of fear?
It’s time to take your awareness and turn it into an opportunity to reconnect with your courage.
How do you light a fire and turn your cautious comfort into a blaze of courage? Here are some lessons for leaders like you:
#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 fear. Then, instead of running away, move forward to the root of the issue and face it head on. And, if you need ideas on how to start, try this exercise from Dr. Browning.
#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. Your people will fail. Your customers and clients will fail to embrace new products or services. This is normal! Failure is going to happen, but when you face it with courage, you can use it as an amazing opportunity for growth.
#3 — Be Accountable
In order for you to grow from failures, you have to accept them — and you have to hold yourself responsible for your own mistakes. Show your people that you are just as accountable for your own failures as you expect them to be for theirs, 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 lose courage. Don’t be afraid to ask your people to aim a little higher. And be sure to challenge the expectations and standards you have set for yourself as their leader!
#5 — Sharpen Your Decisiveness
The longer you lead, the more likely you are to hem, haw and avoid making tough decisions. At the end of the day, people are looking to you to make decisions; that’s what leadership is all about! Avoid procrastination with your decision making. You want more “yes” and “no,” and less “maybe.”
#6 — Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!
You may think that taking on more work than you can handle is courageous, and it’s a huge mistake. Learning to delegate effectively 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! 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?
If you’ve been feeling stuck in your leadership role, it might be because you’ve lost your courage. I understand that once you reach this point, it can feel like you’ll never get it back. But I know that leaders can always access their courage if they know how to take the proper action.
The steps and lessons I outlined above will help you get back to your courageous ways, and I recognize that you may need a bigger 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?
You can leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!