Courage and leadership in today’s world are synonymous. As CEO’s and Senior Executives, we find ourselves operating in fast paced environments, requiring agility and vision to respond to the ever-changing business landscape.
To be effective in today’s business landscape, leadership involves more than just leading through direction, but requires the engagement of hearts and minds. Having courage is not a natural behavioral trait and often requires a very specific and intentional act to galvanise ourselves towards courageousness.
“Courage”, a derivative from the Latin word ‘cor’, means ‘heart’. When individuals find courage within themselves they ignite a spark which has the potential to grow and absorb all those in front of them with power and purpose.
The ability to do this is central to strong leadership. To spark a voyage of discovery within ourselves as leaders and for those that we lead we need to be able to step out in front and transform the vision that we have for a business into reality whilst demonstrating a commitment to collaboration, diversity and inclusion.
This requires a level of reciprocity between the leader and others in the organisation which provides for a more participatory style and a pathway for people to be part and to be seen to be part of a bigger organisational network that is empowered to deliver outcomes.
Courage – Is it important?
Leaders that demonstrate courage have a huge potential to realise extraordinary opportunity for themselves and their businesses by creating a level of vulnerability which drives trust and inspires and connects people on a deeper level.
Being courageous enables leaders to unlock breakthroughs in culture, drive innovation and transform strategy despite the challenging conditions and complex problems that their businesses are facing.
Maya Angelou, the renowned poet and activist, expressed her view on the importance of courage with this beautiful statement, “I am convinced that courage is the most important of all the virtues. Because without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue consistently.” Indeed, without having the courage to ignite and fuel your other virtues, you cannot easily activate your best self and dial up your leadership capacity.
Why Courageous Invitations?
Having courage requires leaders to have resilience, to be purposeful and intentional, to be authentic, curious, agile or adaptable and self-disciplined. These things do not come naturally to most. We are often derailed by our own neuro-science and our fears which become the “handbrake” on good intentions or actions.
Fear is the body’s natural biological response to external threats. How many times has fear prevented you from taking an action or from making a decision or changed the course of an organisation due to the uncertainty that may be created?
Physiologically speaking, courage counteracts the signal of fear from being activated. It assists us, as leaders, to self-regulate our emotions and responses by recognising the activation of the fear response and how to manage it. Such self-regulation comes in the form of purposeful and intentional invitations to ourselves to act with courage, to regulate our thoughts and to own the fear.
Our progress becomes more noticeable and our contributions become more impactful through the series of complementary courageous invitations that we may choose to issue to ourselves. Every day life presents each of us with many opportunities to create value courageously.
Whilst we recognise that some leaders may issue audacious courageous invitations to themselves, many others are more comfortable in taking an incremental approach. Even the smallest of courageous invitations can encourage new thinking, disrupt the old paradigm and encourage small (and sometimes transformative) change.
As leaders, this represents growth in ourselves, and allows us to present differently to those that we lead. Courage allows us to re-envision our lives, the way that we operate and the way that we lead. It allows us to persevere and to see our development and growth as a journey and to give ourselves the permission to authentically exercise humility and intellectual bravery to foster personal and organisational innovation and to spot the opportunities to create value courageously.
Most importantly, it also allows us to get out of our comfort zone, to find new ways of doing things, to activate our strengths and to feel less afflicted by the set backs that are part of every day life. Oftentimes, it is just a matter of creating space and breathing to allow us to refocus on the value that we really want to create and the tactics that we should deploy to create it.
As Gary Earl Johnson, an American businessman, author and politician who served as the 29th Governor of New Mexico stated: “Life’s a party. Invite yourself”. Give yourself permission to invite you onto the dance floor, to transform your vision into a reality and to bring others on the journey with you.
Written by Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen and Anne Duggan.
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