Magazine article Talent Development

Courage Leadership: How to Claim Your Courage and Help Others Do the Same. (Leadership)

Magazine article Talent Development

Courage Leadership: How to Claim Your Courage and Help Others Do the Same. (Leadership)

Article excerpt

This article is second in a two-part series

(GO TO) "Collaborative Decision Making" (Development, July T+D).

Speaking up at a company meeting. Confronting gossip. Making the transition to a new position. Opportunities for courage leadership occur at work nearly every day, and are often the defining moments of a person's career. Unfortunately, most people don't consider courage to be a primary work value. They mistakenly believe that courage is relevant only during particularly perilous times, or that only executives can demonstrate courage leadership. In reality, courage is crucial in a wide range of work situations, and anyone in a company can demonstrate courage leadership. Whether your position is entry-level or executives how you confront work issues and how you manage your professional development speak volumes about your courage quotient and set a leadership example for other people.

What courage is

The French word courage means "heart and spirit." Great leaders throughout history have acted from their hearts, but the definition of courage has been narrowed to simple heroics. Courage, however, means a lot more, and it is key for each one of us. According to Aristotle, courage is the first human virtue because it makes all of the other virtues possible.

Here are a few ways in which courage can be applied at work.

Revealing vulnerability. Having to learn a new software program may generate feelings of anxiety or ineptness. But revealing vulnerability is a courage behavior. Courage leaders are able to say, "I'm in over my head and need assistance to guide me through this transition."

Voicing an unpopular opinion. Courage leaders don't give up easily on opinions and judgments they feel to be right, even when challenged. They're not close-minded; rather, they leave conformity and safety behind to offer opinions and solutions that may be unpopular. Enron and WorldCom are examples of companies lacking courageous change agents.

Making sacrifices for long-term goals. It takes courage to attend evening classes for a degree or give up vacation time to focus on a sideline that's one's real passion. Courage leaders know career advancement is worth the necessary time and sacrifice.

People with courage state their goals and then work backwards to find ways to achieve them. They develop new models when old models don't work. They move forward and upward, never quit, and take risks to reinvent themselves. Their drive for constant learning and improved performance builds their courage and helps them achieve success.

Stepping up with courage

Building your courage and advancing professionally are similar to climbing a 6-foot ladder. The first step is low and wide, and each consecutive step is higher and narrower. Near the top of the ladder, the ascent gets shakier as the steps taper.

As you climb each step of the ladder, your motivation intensifies to improve, to commit to the organization's goals, and to seize opportunities. Unfortunately, 20 percent of people never make it past the first rung: They don't identify goals. The other 80 percent set goals but, as the challenges increase, take a break to regroup and refuel. The majority of those people decide they're content to stay where they are, so they settle in.

Only a few people reset their goals, commit to their original vision and purpose, and continue to climb. When they reach an obstacle, they ask themselves, Do I really want my goal? Then, after reevaluating their path, they decide whether the sacrifice is worth it. If they need to adjust their plan, they do. …

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