Success in life, in leadership and in business requires courage. And we all have courage within us, but we tend to think of courage in the extremes, and that perception can weaken our ability to achieve our potential. Courage enables us to the step forward into the unknown, into uncertainty where risk lives, and that is where potential is discovered and unlocked. Within us, and within everyone we connect with, we should be stoking courage to enable achievements and success for everyone at every level.
Active Knowledge Question:
As a leader, how do you activate courage within everyone involved in your business so that their and its real potential can be lifted to the forefront?
That only a few possess true courage is a fallacy that lives within our society and our businesses. Courage reflects the ability to step into something that you fear. It’s often defined as the person who risks their life to save another, and that action obviously reflects courage. But is not courage truly measured by the fear that must be overcome?
A parent who sees their child at risk and rushes out into the roadway to save them from the oncoming car displays courage, but fear did not even likely have time to arise as they reacted to the danger. It’s not that their action was not courageous, but they did not think, or feel, at that moment of a fear that they had to suppress so they could move forward.
Consider the person who is petrified of public speaking, and for the weeks and days leading up their presentation, fear flows through their entire being. And then in the moments before they step onto the podium they are literally shaking with fear, and that fear can continue throughout their presentation. What level of courage have they had to muster to actually be able to deliver that presentation?
Now I’m not comparing that act of risking one’s own life to save another to that act of public speaking, but what I am seeking to say is that courage comes in many different ‘shapes and sizes’, and that we all use our courage in different ways.
To be successful in life, as a leader and to build a great business, you must be able to tap into your personal courage and also fire-up the courage in others. Finding the limits of your potential, the potential within others and that within your collective business requires courage. Why? Because you can only discover limits by stepping into the unknown and in the unknown will be fear.
In fact, through courage, you will continually push your limits further out, so what was once challenging will become a habit, and new limits will then be tested. Enduring success is found in a continual expansion of your limits, or as I like to say, ‘stepping over the edge again’.
I believe fear is a good thing; it’s a natural protection, which warns you off and calls you to approach with caution. But you don’t want fear to dominate you or to restrict your enjoyment of life or success in life or business. Each one of us has things that we fear, some quite understandable and others which people sometimes laugh at. What we fear is a function of who we are as a person and our life experiences.
I am not a mad believer in challenging your fears head-on and that any fear that you may hold must be confronted time and time again until it is overcome. I have fears that I am quite happy with, and I feel absolutely no need to test them to prove myself to someone else or myself. As I said before, fear can be a good thing and a natural instinct that should be listened to; in some ways, it is your gut telling you to slow down or withdraw.
Fear in many ways can be equated to loss; it is the risk of losing. Again, often we equate courage and fear with loss of life, but these are instances of exception, whereas fear is encountered, and courage is required, almost every day by everyone. It can be the small steps in life, each of which requires courage, that can be a barrier that holds us back from reaching our potential and honestly simple happiness in life. Remember, small steps is an excellent way to develop huge courage.
When you consider an action and the fear emerges, pause and ask what is it you actually fear? The list can be long – physical injury, loss of reputation, wealth, relationship, community, identity, etc., embarrassment, failure, and so the list can continue. At times, you won’t be able to name the fear but doesn’t mean it’s not real. As I said above, fear is not a bad thing, and it is something you should listen to, but it is good if you can give it a name.
Courage is not impulsiveness nor recklessness. And false pride is not fear but simply a weakness.
So, decide for yourself what your limits are and what you are comfortable with and don’t allow others to set the expectations that you must attain to prove yourself worthy. But having said that, growth is all about stepping forward and expanding your limits, and at times this can trigger a fear that should be engaged.
What would you list as the actions that you fear most and which you believe you need to challenge yourself in? What is on your courage agenda, and where can that take you to?
Courage and Business
Success in business and courage go hand in hand. A business will never achieve its potential if it is not one that enables every single person within and working with that business to step forward in courage knowing that they are recognised, encouraged and supported.
For Business Potential
The role of courage in a business is endless, and it is required in so many different ways. Keep in mind that what is an easy, simple task for one person, maybe a real challenge for others. Your business will only achieve its real potential if it is able to draw the combined talent and effort of every person who works within and with your business to the forefront, and that means courage being exercised throughout your business, so it becomes infectious.
Where do you want courage being evident in your business? Here’s a short list of ten points:
- Waking up every morning and coming to work with an attitude of gratitude and pushing aside all the challenges that everyday life presents.
- Starting each day with the question, and an answer, what can I do better today.
- Speaking up, politely and positively, in every meeting to contribute your best thoughts and ideas. And speaking into issues that you know are just not right.
- Listening to and encouraging all your colleagues.
- Being willing to push forward new ideas and ways of doing things – Being willing to accept these new ideas and ways.
- Trail, error and trial again.
- Contributing your best all the time.
- Calling out behaviour and actions that are not appropriate.
- Actively supporting others to do all of the above.
- Not acting in self-interest.
As A Leader
Courageous leaders are required in every business at every level as they set the example and environment in which everyone else can be courageous. This is a trait of a worthy leader.
Worthy leaders display the following strengths:
- Courage to act and take the risks to enable the business to achieve its goals.
- Discipline to enforce rules within the business in pursuit of purpose, vision, and culture.
- Sincerity and humanity so that everyone in the business knows that they are authentic, committed to the purpose and vision of the business, and that they will support and reward others for their efforts and understand their needs as people.
- Wisdom to enable them to quickly recognise circumstances in the business environment and lead necessary change expediently.
And a worthy leader absolutely avoids any of the following characteristics:
- Cowardice as it will only lead to lost opportunities. A leader who is scared of failure will not be able to lead a business through change.
- False pride as it is readily manipulated by a competitor and reflects those who will quickly place their own wellbeing, image, and feelings above that of the business.
- Impulsiveness as it can be provoked into rage, negates wisdom, and reflects someone who can be easily exploited and led.
- Recklessness will only destroy a business and is often found in bravado and overconfidence. Courage must be moderated by wisdom.
- Weak compassion which leads to a relaxing of the need for strict conduct and compliance with purpose, vision, and culture, and a weakening of competitiveness.
But be warned those inflicted by self-interest, typically persons who are not courageous themselves, will seek to squash courage as an attribute as it works against their interests. Courage in a business places the business’s real interests first.
As you practise courage in all aspect of your life, you will find its strength moulding who you are and enabling you to achieve those things that are important to you in life. And in business and as a leader, courage should be something that is spoken to, is part of your business’s culture and rewarded, so it becomes a trait of who your business is, and through such courage will lie great success.
An entirely new level of performance.
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All the best in the success of your business,