What does courage have to do with Leadership?

Courage is a powerful word. When you look back to it’s Latin origin meaning heart, you can see why. Also, consider today’s dictionary definition, which is mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.

Historically, the word courage and courageous is often reserved for describing superheroes, Greek Gods, cartoon characters or bigger than life individuals such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Anne Frank, Amelia Earhart, just to name a few.

It certainly wasn’t used to describe executives, leaders, managers, teams or any other member of the market or workplace culture. In fact, historically, leaders were seen and celebrated more for being stoic, powerful and with a command and control approach, which is still the dominant leadership style in this country today.

Tell, teach, plan, organize and never let others see your weaknesses, is till the way to lead.  Oh, and keep your feelings and emotions separate from your work, or else you won’t be respected and may come across soft and unprofessional. The words courage, vulnerability and trust were words used in counselling and psychiatrist offices, not in boardrooms and executive offices. You’ll have to trust me here because I lived it. My Servant Leadership style got me to the Corporate table, but when I arrived there, I was seen more as a dolphin than as the shark mentality that was prevalent. I had to constantly remind most of the corporate bullies that in the ocean, a dolphin was a shark’s most feared enemy. ☺

So what’s changed and why are there top selling authors and change makers such as Brené Brown, Simon Sinek, Daniel Goleman and Adam Grant talking about courage? Why are there leadership development programs focused upon courageous leadership? Why are there leadership development and profiling applications focused upon character and behavior, such Personal Leadership Effectiveness™?

Well it turns out that courage has a lot to do with leadership, or shall I say, leadership has a lot to do with courage. It turns out that courage may separate effective (or elite) leaders from the rest of the pack and can differentiate whether that leader has influence with those they lead.

My definition of leadership is that it’s is the ability to influence others to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do. Combine that with the description noted at the beginning of this post and you have the following:

A great leader is someone who has influence and can effectively motivate others toward a common vision because they have the mental and moral strength to persevere despite their fears and the difficulty of the challenge.

With this definition of an effective leader, you begin to see the role that courage plays in leadership. You begin to see that it’s not just a component of leadership but it’s perhaps something that’s at the core and foundation of what an effective leader really is.

Weekly Leadership Insight

Today, studies show that “deep relationships” are not as abundant as they once were. It appears that in many cases, we still live within a society that says it is all about me. This attitude is a choice, but isn’t it fairly logical that to achieving what you want requires the support of others?        

Action Step:
This week evaluate if you feel you could have more meaningful relationships in your life, both personally and professionally.          

Quote of the Week:
To achieve authentic success in life incorporates people caring for one another on a richer and deeper level.

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