Courage is what every Leader needs!

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We spend a lot of time focussing on the training and development of our employees, but how much time and effort do you dedicate to the training and development of yourself as a leader?

Last week I found myself in a situation where I had to deliver a HUGE presentation pitch to over 10 people for a multi-million-pound bid. Regardless of the fact that I’m the MD and founder of a thriving business, with years (and years) of experience under my belt, who has done more presentations that I can even think of, I was STILL incredibly nervous! (No, let’s be honest, ABSOLUTELY terrified!). Leaders may be at the top of chain, but that doesn’t stop us feeling the heat, no matter how many years we’ve been in the game.

Nurturing strong and capable leaders should be a top priority for all businesses, as following research by the Center for Creative Leadership, businesses who commit to cultivating leadership can see:

  • Improved financial performance
  • Success in navigating organizational change
  • Higher employee attraction and retention rates
  • A greater ability to drive strategic execution

While there is a range of workplace competencies that characterize effective leadership, such as knowing how to give feedback and guide a workforce through change, there are also key emotional traits and behaviours that business owners and senior management need in order to bring out the best in themselves and others.

So, how did I overcome my nerves? Well, I embraced my Courage. 

A lot of my daily guidance and inspiration comes from the learnings of Brene Brown. For those who don’t know much about Brene Brown, her 20 years of research on human emotions and their impact on how people, love, lead and parent has dispelled the common myth that vulnerability is a weakness. Brown’s work has highlighted the significant flaws in the command-and-control style of leadership that has been prevalent in the majority of global organisations for the past 50 years.

Her book Dare to Lead was the culmination of a seven-year study on courage and leadership and from which she has developed a workshop and website of resources, dedicated to helping leaders develop the skills and confidence to lead with courage.

She also has the fifth most watched Ted Talk ever called the Power of Vulnerability, which has now been viewed over 42 million times. (To say that I have a bit of a professional crush on Brown is a real understatement. But I’m sure after reading this I won’t be the only one!)

Needless to say, I use Brown’s research everywhere I can. It has completely changed my outlook and the way I coach my team on the power of being their authentic selves. It has also helped me identify solutions to the barriers I encounter every day in the ever changing and evolving world of work.

According to Brown, the single most important emotional trait that leaders need to survive the increasing demands of today, is COURAGE. 

“When I ask about what is the future of leadership, I keep getting told the same answer – we need more courage – we must have braver leaders.

But when I asked leaders how do you operationalise courage, most of them didn’t know. There is a lot of language for what courage isn’t but very little language about what courage actually is.” – Bréne Brown

So, what makes a Courageous Leader?

Well, from Bréne’s research and my own independent reading, it would seem that to be a Courageous Leader and to best serve your people (both in and out of a workplace setting), you need to embody 5 key characteristics:

1. Authenticity – This is a biggie! In the words of Bréne herself, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.”

2. Resilience – Resilience is the capacity to not only endure great challenges, but to grow stronger in the midst of them. It isn’t something everyone intrinsically possesses, but it’s a learned capability that any leader can own with experience.

3. Emotional Intelligence – Refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Some researchers claim the capacity for emotional intelligence is an inborn characteristic, but like Resilience I believe that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened with the dedication and discipline of daily practice. Emotional Intelligence is not something to be underestimated. Some psychologists suggest it to be more important that IQ when considering your success in life.

4. Self-Discipline – In addition to building self-awareness and a deeper understanding of your emotions, you need to exercise self-discipline and demonstrate poise—even in the most trying circumstances.

Self-discipline is the ability to push yourself forward, stay motivated, and take action, regardless of how you’re feeling, physically or emotionally. The term “Showing up” springs to mind!

It’s what pushes you to do high-quality work, even when you don’t feel like it. It gives you the strength to stay professional with your clients, even when you’re ready to throw in the towel. It holds you accountable to achieving the ambitious goals that you set for yourself, despite the odds stacked against you. And it makes you stand up Infront of those 10 people in a bid pitch presentation to deliver like you’ve never delivered before!

It also, as I see within my young learners every day at Geon, enables you to improve your learning capacity for retaining knowledge and embodying new skillsets.

5. Last but not least Purpose – Purpose is critical to both personal and business success. A recent study showed that 96% of leaders believe purpose is important to their job satisfaction. For you and your team to reap the rewards of job satisfaction and to be the Courageous Leader you are so capable of being, it’s imperative to consider how you can be more purpose-driven and leverage your company’s objectives to instil your team with a stronger sense of mission. Seek to empower your employees by tying their work to important strategic initiatives, and delegate tasks effectively to drive key projects forward (but don’t turn into the delegation devil here!)

Courage, and the concept of Courageous Leadership is what every employee hopes for and what every company needs.

There’s no doubt that Courageous leadership sets the stage for progress and confidence not only for yourself as a leader, but for your team too. By using these 5 characteristics as a checklist for how you conduct yourself on a daily basis you can guide your staff without stamping out creativity. Lead by example. And you can stand at the helm of the ship, giving everyone behind you the confidence to carry out their jobs to the best of their ability. By being a Courageous leader, you can show your team, and the world, what you’re made of.

If that’s not worth investing your time and resources in, then I don’t know what is!

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