Courage and Leadership

Organizations are calling for courageous leaders! How would you stack up in the domain?

My daughter retweeted a message from the DalaiLama. His message was this:

“If the work is worthwhile, then whether we can complete it or not, it’s worth making the attempt. That’s why courage is important.”

Now this is a powerful statement that calls our leaders into action. So why is courage important? I believe that courage is a critical competency to have as a leader and here’s why.

1. The root of courage is “Coeur” or heart in French. A leader who acts with courage is connecting to the heart and soul of who they are as leaders. By connecting to their heart, they are giving themselves and their teams the power to be steadfast in who they are, what they believe in and what they are here to bring to the world. People step into their own leadership.

2. A courageous leader is one who is steadfast in their purpose and values. Any actions the leader takes, any decisions they make will be assessed against their purpose and values. And in so doing, they will create this sense of purpose and values in their organization and in their teams. The result, people are happier, more connected and more productive. Organizations that are purpose and values driven will consistently produce more sustainable results than those that are not. Take a look at companies like Amgen, Apple, Google and Virgin, who operate from their purpose and values that have been co-created with their employees.

3. A leader who is acting with courage will do whatever it takes to create the space of gracious collaboration. What I mean by gracious collaboration is the space that gets created for everyone to make a contribution and people knowing and believing that whatever each person has to say is perfect just the way it is. So people freely contribute and there is a modeling of respect. What that means for the leader, the organization and the teams that they lead is a place for innovation and creativity to flourish. Perspectives are shared, brainstorming occurs and new ideas are surfaced.

4. Courage for me is also evident in the way a leader listens and embraces the individual and collective human experience. It is not just about listening to the words; it is about listening at a deeper level, to the words, the underlying message, the yearning that is looking to be expressed. It is celebrating the magnificence of the individual and listening for what is being expressed by the group. In this space of deep listening, dialogue and disagreement are invited and expressed, and a sharing of what people are seeing and feeling is explored. In this space of deep listening and embracing of the collective human experience, there is a commitment to what is possible and a nurturing and experience of learning, growth and development. It is also a place where great ideas are explored and executed upon.

5. And finally, courageous leadership is about living your life from a place of passion and purpose, living your brand as an authentic leader and supporting your team and people in your life to step into their life of passion and purpose. It is about modeling what is possible and giving people the space, support and belief to be the best that they are, in their own way and in their own time.

So my calls to action for all the leaders out there come from the following questions:

A. What do you stand for? What are your purpose and core values? If you don’t know what they are or if people don’t know what they are then you have some work to do to be a courageous leader.

B. If your team were to describe you at your best, what words would they use? What words would they use to describe you at your worst? If you can’t answer these question then ask them! And if you can answer the question, what does that say about your leadership style? What actions do you need to take to be the courageous leader?

C. What impact do you want to make in the world? How are you doing in that regard? What do you need to stop doing, start doing and keep doing to have that impact materialize?

D. How are you honoring the celebration of the individual and the collective humanity of your team? What are you doing to honor the diversity of thought and views so that all perspectives and ideas are shared?

Courageous leaders attract people who embrace creativity, innovation and collaboration. They create the space for the greatness of all to be expressed and realized. They are at the forefront on new ideas and sustainable results. So what are you waiting for?

4 Responses to “Courage and Leadership”

  1. David Brown says:

    Bonnie, I’m curious how a leader below stage 4 would respond to your questions? Do you think a stage 3 leader and a stage 4 leader would hear them differently and respond differently? Would the impact be different? Would you write them differently if you knew you were addressing a stage 3 leader?
    And I appreciate your words of wisdom!

    • admin says:

      Great questions David. The simple answer is yes, I think a stage 3 leader and a stage 4 leader would hear and respond differently.

      For example, a stage 3 leader would look at those questions from the place of “me” – what’s in it for me and how can I be stronger and more powerful. From that place, the impact may be for the stage 3 leader to ask the questions and listen to the answers from the place of how it will improve him/her as an individual.

      A stage 4 leader would know what their purpose and values are since that is the structure in which the stage 4 leader operates. That is forming relationships between people based on a common purpose and aligned values. The stage 4 leader asking the questions would be listening at the level of the relationships and would be seeking wisdom to improve those relationships and the collective “we”.

  2. Dan Kaufman says:

    Working with some leaders I’ve become aware of how courageous one must be to notice when we’re operating at a level we’d prefer we weren’t, to acknowledge and share the awareness with a group and to commit to continued growth despite the obvious and perhaps necessary pitfalls that we stumble upon.

    • admin says:

      Great comment Dan. And isn’t that what leadership is all about? It is messy, there is no “right way to do things”, it is about being authentic, open to different perspectives and to sharing our humanity. Thank you for your comments.

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