Why Leaders Need Courage
You cannot launch yourself into challenging and stressful, uncertain situations without having courage – and good leaders show strong reserves of courage in tackling issues and making decisions.
Leaving behind the comfort of what you know is a daunting thing and is accompanied by knowing that you cannot then return to the safety of the past, when you were successful and matters could be managed relatively easily.
To deal with this, and to maximise your chances of success, the following steps should be taken:
- Check your instincts: you need to be brave if anyone is going to follow you but this should be tempered with a degree of sensibility. It is frightening when the instincts that have guided you thus far begin to fail and your reasoning powers fail you because you are so far out of your comfort zone. You should never be frightened of the things that you have done before, if the same situation presents itself, or if you can use your experience n new situations.
- Cope with the critics: the more that you extend yourself, the more courage you need. We never become leaders for the applause and we should not expect it. Things can get unpleasant when you challenge situations and where people have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Challenges on the legitimacy of your view or argument will come thick and fast. A good technique is to soak this up, rather than facing it full-on which will only create greater vitriol. Similarly turning the other cheek robs your opponent of control of the situation.
- Keep going: courage often means being resilient. This also means never accepting no. you have to cope with the complexity of leadership without attempting to simplify it.
- Using feedback: you need courage to accept and give feedback dealing with what people really think is something few of us are keen to hear and even less keen to deal with. Often feedback is hard, personal and often embarrassing, so learning the skills of constructive challenge is essential training and development for all leaders.
- Exercise your muscle: you need to know what to exercise your courage on. Weak people will always take a stand on the wrong things as often they have given way and are not focused on the real issues facing them. You do need to know when to give way because there are very few situations where blind courage is a good idea – far better to have cool, rational courage combined with persistence and resilience. Just like a muscle, bravery needs to be exercised otherwise it becomes weak and unreliable.
Always work on your inner reserves of courage and consciously reflect on how this shapes the decisions you make and the impact that you have.
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