“Courage is not the strong oak tree that withstands every storm. Courage is the frail blossom that opens in the snow.” –unknown
Courage is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as ‘that quality of mind which enables one to meet danger and difficulties with firmness’.
How do you display courage as a leader?
Several months ago, Dave had some new ideas for a marketing campaign that he thought might work. He thought his client would like the ideas as well, but he was afraid of what his boss would say. His boss, Karen, was known for publicly shooting down ideas in their weekly staff meeting, thus making the person presenting the idea feel foolish and embarrassed. Dave was not interested in being her next victim.
He spent the better part of a week trying to come up with an idea for the client that was more in line with the type of thing Karen typically endorsed. But by Monday morning’s staff meeting, he still thought his new, somewhat non-traditional idea was the best one.
Everyone filed into the conference room for the meeting and Karen began going through the list of clients getting updates from everyone. Dave grew more and more nervous and shaky as she got closer to his client’s name.
When she finally got to it, she said the name of the client and then looked directly at Dave. He felt his insides turn to liquid, but he took a deep breath and launched into an animated description of his idea. He stood up, used the props he had prepared, and allowed his passion to take over.
At the end of his presentation, Karen just stared at him. The room was silent for a moment, and Dave felt the color drain from his face. Finally, one of his colleagues let out a low whistle and said that he thought it was one of the most brilliant ideas they’d had in a while.
The comments came quickly after that, all praising Dave’s concept. He waited for the hammer to drop from Karen, but after listening to everyone around the table and hearing their enthusiasm, she finally just nodded and agreed to present the idea to the client. She gave Dave a small smile and nod of approval.
Engaging in everyday acts of courage is one of the most important qualities of a leader. I believe these basic truths about courage:
- Many people have said that courage is not the absence of fear. Displaying or acting out of courage requires us to engage in an internal struggle. Being a leader means that you act in spite of your fear. Not because you have yet conquered it.
- Showing courage inspires and motivates other people to follow you, and follow your example. Leaders have, by definition, followers. Not in a cult-like sense – just people who admire, respect and listen to you. When we display courage through our actions, we set the example that others will follow.
- Your capacity will grow in direct proportion to the amount of courage you display. Just like success breeds more success, courage creates capacity and opens up doors to new possibilities for each of us. When you are willing to feel the fear and act in spite of it, you raise yourself to the next level of capability. As your courage grows, so do you.
On your personal path of leadership development, look for excuses to be courageous. It will make you a much better leader. Contact us to learn ways in which we can help.
Ellen Patnaude is Vice President of Instruction for the Northeast region. She is based in Detroit, Michigan, but she also teaches in Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toronto, Baltimore and other Northeast cities.