Roman philosopher, Seneca, wrote “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” Going to work is a high-pressure business! Between the state of economic challenges, your personal issues and family concerns—it’s easy to overlook the value of a forgotten virtue called courage (and its intrinsic value). Most people never even think of this “big” word much less stake it in their daily lives. Every time I present to a group, regardless of size, no one ever raises their hand when I ask, “Did you naturally hear the word being used when you were growing up?” No wonder courageous leadership is a confusing concept.
Every generation faces challenges—they are not going away. They will always be with us because that’s how we grow, by choosing to tackle the tough project rather than taking the easy road. Taking action is a critical part of making courage work for you.
But first, how would you define courageous leadership? Below are a collection of examples of courageous leadership that move you closer to hitting the bull’s-eye more consistently. Hitting the bull’s-eye means you’re coming from your “heart and spirit,” the etymology of courage (Old French, corage). Hitting the target is one thing, but consistently putting arrows in the bull’s-eye requires enormous practice and aiming from your true self (rather than your false self). Failure to aim at the right target represents a failure of courage-consciousness.
- Courageous leadership is seeing you as a leader, no matter what your role or position.
- Courageous leadership is not letting a worn-out script define you.
- Courageous leadership is a state of mind.
Chances are you’re pretty good at getting by day-to-day, but what if you want to achieve what fulfills your spirit (bull’s-eye). Why not take a chance to learn how to invite, claim and apply courageous leadership? Here are a few tips that might help you take control:
- Start to slow down—The process of slowing down puts you in touch with reality that allows for spontaneity and creativity, and an opportunity to become more discerning. Contemplation plays an active role. When this happens, you (and the organization you work for) increase the spiritual intelligence (SQ). Physicist Dr. Danah Zohar writes in Spiritual Capital, “To follow a path with spiritual intelligence, or a path with heart, is to be deeply committed and dedicated.” With our gnat-like attention span we don’t take time to reflect and welcome introspection much less “simple courage.” Simplicity takes talent, intention and advocates! Do you have the courage to confront this question: “What percentage of my spirit is filled with regrets?” Regrets represent lost courage, usually layered in blame. Recognizing regrets, the task then is to cultivate courage, not fear usually lodged in worn out scripts, and trust that going for it is better than dying without it. This is the difference between heart and mind. Courage lives in the heart.
- Define your “courage brand value”— The driver behind courageous leadership is the meaningfulness of your purpose reflected in self-fulfillment. These qualities are portrayed through established convictions mirrored in your branding distinction. Ask: “What is your courage brand value?” Hiding in invisibility might be the easiest route during difficult and changing times, choosing to stay stuck in a dreamer’s trance rather than a creator of your destiny.Courage is organic. When you seek high standards that showcase your talents you learn to discriminate and refine your worth. Are you able to identify your “hard” skills versus your “real” skills that reveal what you want to be known for? Leadership branding is seen in McKinsey & Company for their development of proficient business leaders and Porsche for its exceptional technology. Do you work for a company that clearly brands its values and showcases the creative talents of its employees? A company brand is one of an organization’s most important assets. People who want to authentically showcase their talents seek out companies that also have a strong and compatible brand message. Have you sold your soul?
- Instill self-discipline—Does your organization combine a sense of passion and self-discipline that allows you to demonstrate your genius? Genius should not be confused with intelligence quotient (IQ). David R. Hawkins, Ph.D., writes in Power vs. Force, “It would be more helpful to see genius as simply an extraordinarily high degree of insight in a given area of human activity.… Genius can be more accurately identified by perseverance, courage, concentration, enormous drive, and absolute integrity—talent alone is certainly not enough…”Dr. Hawkins’ definition of genius leaves no room for apathy, and words like “perseverance” and “concentration” point to the importance of self-discipline demonstrated in the ability to recontextualize situations. Genius, then, has a lot more to do with finding your passion and developing the self-discipline to spontaneously follow the purpose rather than focusing only on intellectual skills (IQ, “hard” skills or luck). Then, and only then, do you and the organization foster SQ—a blend of self-disciplined with self-directed. Dr. Carlos Warter shares that the word spiritual comes from the Latin word spiritus, which means, “that which gives life or vitality to a system.” How fulfilled is your spirit?
- Focus on the best results—Combining intention with action, courage becomes the throttle for your success. For example, many green companies refuse to accept defeat while they attempt to change a norm. Instead, they focus on making a sustainable difference and in return demonstrate an important courage action skill called manifesting a vision. Most organizations and employees experience defeat at some point, but we can overcome this obstacle simply by working to manifest that which inspires results (assuming you know that you’re aiming at the right target!).Unfortunately, far too many people who intuitively recognize the target distrust their own vision and aim in the wrong direction. Real sacrifice is about giving up the delusions and false pretenses that keep you (and the organization) stuck in self-defeat so that you can recognize and manifest your true vision. Being more on target increases happiness and self-fulfillment—what a better way to go to work! Are you prone to swallowing your voice (and you know it)?
- Motivate from within—What type of stress does work invoke? What is the ratio of stress to joy? The stress and physical illness that stem from self-neglect produce an unhappy work life that spreads misery into all aspects of the daily routine. Motivating yourself to initiate a change takes courage, and it could save your life. Identifying the first small step to motivate yourself quells the accumulative anxiety. It helps to focus on something immediate and easily reachable. This narrow focus helps you and your organization recognize that courage is an accumulation of small steps that eventually leads to big feats. This simple recognition helps you to keep stepping up. An ancient Chinese proverb says, “He who hesitates before each step spends his life on one leg.” How long have you been on the same step of ladder?