“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
Humans are often seen as social creatures distinctive from each other regarding personality and attributes. One thing we all have in common is courage although the level of it highly varies. One might be extremely courageous in their action while another not so much. The same applies in the workplace, where leaders and employees showcase their courage from time to time. The question is, ‘Is it necessary to be courageous?’
In today’s time, when uncertainties are high and so are the stakes of our actions, it all boils down to taking the onus of the situation at hand. Leaders from various schools of thought, industries, and positions have repeatedly demonstrated high levels of courage. While parts of one’s personality are inherited, such as motivating people or natural leadership, others may need some effort and work. Courage is one such characteristic that can be learned and honed. One needs to show courage over and over again during their tenure; it is seldom a one-time phenomenon.
Being a leader means being at the forefront of every situation, good or bad. And leaders often face unpleasant scenarios in the face of numerous uncertainties. Being courageous in these situations enables taking decisions and actions for the long run, even if they have immediate and short-term consequences. The ability to be courageous allows one to take steps into unknown territories.
Boldness in the face of apprehension
Driving decisions that impact others can be a tedious task with great responsibility. Ideal leaders often and readily choose to be courageous, overcoming fear of what can go wrong. They risk their reputation. Take a hit for the sake of the organization. It is never easy or comfortable. Doing what is right at the moment in time is what matters, sometimes waiting it out means losing out on an opportunity.
Leaders face their fears
There is a trio of fears that reside in the human mind – discomfort, risk, and failure. Leaders have to face these fears with every decision they make. Being in your comfort zone is the easy way out, but it’s not necessarily the right thing to do. Good leadership can be uncomfortable, but it must be done. Anyhow, nothing is a 100% guarantee; there is always a risk associated with it. Sometimes leaders choose not to act upon a situation owing to the risk of losing, but in truth, the failure to act causes potential issues. With the courage to enact change in a situation, such futuristic issues can be mitigated to large extents.
The last part is the most dreadful, failure. A considerably small percentage of people and leaders are open to failures, and no one is taught how to deal with them, hence it is feared the most. The inability to succeed paralyzes leaders. The fear of failure often prevents people from sharing ideas and information.
What are the characteristics of a courageous leader?
A courageous leader is the one who exhibits one, if not all, of the following characteristics:
Authentic: Authenticity is the foundation of courageous leadership. Employees’ perceptions of authentic leadership are strong predictors of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and workplace happiness, according to a study. Research also shows that organizations that are comprised of leaders who are true to themselves demonstrate improvements in both employee trust and performance. The stepping stone to become an authentic leader is to focus on self-improvement.
Resilient: Leadership can be challenging. When complex business problems arise, one needs to be prepared to meet them head-on and be resilient to work toward a solution.
Resilience is the ability to not just endure great challenges but to get stronger in the midst of them. Additionally, resilience isn’t something everyone intrinsically possesses; it’s a learned capability that leaders can hone with experience.
Emotionally Intelligent: A keen sense of emotional intelligence is vital to being a leader who can collaborate with others to achieve organizational goals. According to research by TalentSmart, 90% of top performers in the workplace have a high degree of emotional intelligence, compared to only 20% of bottom performers. Emotionally intelligent leaders are more able to demonstrate willingness and ability to change, which enhances trustworthiness and boosts employee buy-in when it comes to change initiatives. Experts believe that becoming a leader who is attuned to emotions requires a “willingness to cultivate, enhance, and deepen your self-awareness, and to learn to trust it.”
Self-disciplined: In addition to building self-awareness and a deeper understanding of emotions, one needs to exercise self-discipline and demonstrate poise—even in the most tiring circumstances. When facing a crisis, one needs to be prepared to lead under pressure and remain composed. A key initial step is to assess the circumstances at hand rather than act prematurely.
Committed to purpose: Purpose is critical for both individual and organizational success. A report by EY shows that 96% of leaders believe purpose is important to their job satisfaction. An independent study by DDI found that purpose improves long-term financial performance and organizational resilience. To reap the benefits, leaders and companies must consider how they can be more purpose-driven and instil a sense of mission by leveraging the organization’s objectives. Leaders should encourage their teams to contribute to important strategic initiatives by delegating tasks that will drive key projects forward.
We all possess these traits to varying degrees. It is through courage that we can grow as individuals and make positive changes in our lives. One way to tap into courage at any time is to ask yourself earnestly, How can I be courageous at this moment?
Strength, originality, intelligence, and the willingness to embrace the unknown are hallmarks of a courageous leader. To be courageous, start small and work on it consistently every day. Each courageous act is the stepping stone for the next. Take notice. Watch how confident and empowered you’ll feel and how much more you’ll accomplish when you’re not afraid.
Being positive means taking risks for the greater good, adapting to ever-changing conditions, and remaining curious about what your team can accomplish without preconceived notions.
Authored by Richa
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