It isn’t courage if it’s not scary

We’ve been working with aspiring leaders on developing their ideas of the most important traits of good leadership. Their lists included:

  • Having a vision and being able to share that vision
  • Articulating and achieving objectives
  • Calmness under pressure
  • Being inspirational
  • Being trustworthy
  • Courage.

In discussing these traits, we were considering the impact on people of being courageous. While being courageous can be costly at times, we believe not being courageous can be even more costly.

Here’s why.

If you are courageous, you make a decision to do what you believe is right. Once you have made that decision, you don’t need to waste time second-guessing yourself.

Nelson Mandela said, “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.”

You may feel anxious about the result of your courageous decision but you can be confident that your values are at the centre of your decision-making process. This gives your decision a firm foundation which, in turn, makes you more confident to face whatever flows from your decision.

If you are courageous, your team will trust you as a leader. Even if they don’t agree with your decision, they will know your decision was value-driven. Generally speaking, your team will repay you for your courage with trust, loyalty and hard work.

Your courage must be combined with effective communication. Your staff can’t follow you if they don’t know where you are going and what your objectives are, no matter how courageous you are being.

Candour is also an essential element of courageous communication. The ability to speak to truth to power is essential – but should not be confused with being indiscreet, tactless or domineering, all of which make communication ineffective.

Finally, even those who don’t appreciate the result of your courage will accept it for what it is. They will know that you are forthright and reliable and that you will do the right thing, even if there is a cost. This means you will win their trust too.