Studies have shown that there isn't a set list of skills that defines a leader. But it is a combination of an individual's unique qualities that shapes them as a leader. Leadership stems from self-awareness and the ability to know one's strengths, weaknesses, values and purpose. But it is also the ability to relate to and know others. It takes a courageous leader to do both.
One quality that is not often spoken about, but is important in leadership, is Courage. The meaning of Courage as stated in the dictionary, "is the ability to face difficulty, uncertainty or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action." As Mark Twain stated, "Courage isn't the absence of fear, but its mastery." It is a learned skill. That similar to any other skill can be strengthened with practice.
Aristotle called courage the first virtue because it made all other virtues possible. With courage, a leader can make decisions that are often outside of the norm. A courageous leader has the confidence that the direction one is taking is the right path for the company's growth. Take courage out of the picture and leadership collapses or never gets started.
Courage for a leader comes in 3 ways. It is about action, thought and letting go.
Courage is about taking action. When a leader sets a course for change, it takes courage and conviction to stand behind the decision. A leader takes a step into the unknown or a new direction because they have confidence, have done the preparation and careful deliberation and believes in their team to be able to handle the challenge.
When leaders are courageous they can be creative and think outside the box. With creativity and focus comes innovation. When a leader is innovative they think differently and are not afraid to face growth and a new challenge.
Courage is about giving feedback and raising difficult conversations when others don't want to hear it or are afraid to say it. Feedback is not about being rude and arrogant. But it is about learning, teaching and exploring new ways to discover unchartered waters. A courageous leader can face an adverse situation and challenge the conversation to think differently.
Courage to have faith in others and let go. This is a big part of leadership. Knowing that you are not the only one with answers but having faith and belief that your team can also perform. Letting go is the courage to believe that there are people, other than yourself, who can do the job. A leader that can let go, allows the team to step up and take responsibility. With responsibility comes engagement. With engagement in the global workforce at an all time low of 13%, it is time for leaders to let others takes responsibility, get involved and feel a part of the greater whole.
Leaders who really want to succeed and make a difference, need to have courage to step outside of the safety zone. With safety you will most likely do a good job. But will you surpass what you set out to achieve? In order to go above and beyond, a leader needs to be brave and not afraid of uncertainty. They need to have confidence in one's ability and faith in the team.
Courage is a skill that can be learned through repeated interaction and leaning into one's own discomfort. As published in Neuron, research has proven that you can access and increase your courage center in the brain. The courage center in the brain is located in an area responsible for fear, stress and emotion. When activated it can actually cancel out some of the fear activated by the amygdala. Thus courage trumping fear.
When deciding to be a leader, don't forget about courage. The courage to act, think and let go. Courageous leaders foster trust and set the stage for others to follow. Think Richard Branson and his first mail order business venture, or a young 15 year old Bill Gates or Ray Kroc, and the courage he had to start the Franchise Realty Corp and the first McDonald's.
What leaders in your mind show courage?
Colleen Cassel speaks, coaches and trains individuals and organizations on impacting performance. Colleen works with you on leadership, communication, career development and creating thriving work environments.