Have you ever heard another leader being spoken about disparagingly? Did you speak up? What if the naysayer was your boss or an influential board member? Leadership takes courage- courage to speak out even when it’s easier to allow comments or actions to go “unnoticed”; courage to make decisions in the best interest of the organization instead of your own; courage to advocate for decisions that are in the best interest of the organization and noticeably in your best interest; and courage to change direction from the status quo even when it would not be obvious until some unknown time in the future that such disruption was needed.
How do you cultivate courage, especially when success in the early part of your career was achieved by keeping your head down and working hard? Here are some suggestions:
Start the day with a big win- Accomplish the hardest part of your to-do list first, whether it’s having a conversation, making a decision, or doing a task. Everything else on the list will feel easier.
Keep perspective- How much does any decision or action truly measure against what is most important in your life and at work?
Commit to twenty seconds of courage- Matt Damon as Benjamin Mee tells his son in the movie, We Bought a Zoo Trailer, “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage…of just embarrassing bravery…something great will come of it.”
Courage buddy- Find an employee of the company with whom you can confidentially share acts of courage via text and conversation. If this person is outside the company then make sure they can be authentic and honest.
Seek role models– Whether real or fictional, there are plenty of leaders and characters to exemplify what courage looks and sounds like.
Track and reward your courageous decisions and acts- Create a list of these actions and periodically track your growth. Implement a rewards system to acknowledge and appreciate yourself along the way. You might be surprised at how much courage you already have, which will motivate you to take it even farther.
Unpack the resistance- There’s often wisdom in the resistance. Take some time to identify and solve concerns before rushing through a tough decision or action. Slowing down and evaluating can open you up to ideas and perspectives that would have gone unnoticed before a pressured decision.
Building courage can take time and dedication. “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain