In last month’s article, we looked at effective leadership. This month, I have chosen the topic of courage. Very often, leadership and courage are linked together: A leader must have courage; a leader must act in a courageous manner and so on.
While this is true, it is only part of the story about courage and the workplace. As we shall see, the virtue of courage must run throughout an organization or company – from bottom to top – in order for it to function at the highest level.
Courage comes from the Old French corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” In other words, courage is an innate, internal quality that resides within the core of your being.
Courage is further defined as: “The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.” Again, we see the word spirit.
Courage is foundational
Courage is associated with such words as fearlessness, grit and power. It is experiencing fear, yet pushing through it to achieve your desired result.
In my book, courage is the thing that underlies every other human quality. Without it, we cannot rightly be honest, dependable, generous or trustworthy. Courage is the foundation upon which all other virtues are built.
Courage and fear of reprisal
Why is so little courage seen in so many companies these days? In my estimation, it is because the leaders of those companies have fostered a culture where dissenting voices are discouraged and opinions that threaten the status quo are thoroughly silenced.
With this climate of possible retaliation before them, team members are fearful of speaking up, sharing their thoughts and voicing their values. Fear of being the first one out the door at the next downsizing has stopped many ideas dead in their tracks in the workplace.
Courage, vision and openness
The first step in harnessing your courage is to develop a vision that represents your authentic self and goals, and aligning that vision with the business and its goals. This is true for the executive, manager and employee in the workplace.
Development of a vision that all members of the team can buy into depends on the openness of a company or organization. An open-minded company allows for discussion, sharing, brainstorming and even dissenting views. An open leader sees the value of the knowledge and experience of everyone in the room, including managers and employees.
The leaders’ openness allows for others to work from a place of courage. They can step up without fear and lend their thoughts to the discussion. The ability to have that courage becomes transformational, both for the person sharing and the company or organization.
Openness leads to the ability to shape and form a vision. It is a vision wrought in courage which gives it power. That vision, brought about by the courage of the people involved in its development, will be the driving force carrying the company forward into new and exciting areas.
What does courage in the workplace look like?
I write this section because so many people have yet to see courage in action in the workplace. It is foreign to them. They have yet to experience the notion.
The best picture I have come across in my work is a picture painted by Jaime Walters in an article from 2002 entitled “Courage: Tap Greater Potential and Thrive Through Challenges.”
Imagine a group, department or company where "citizen-leaders" are invigorated by the notion that they can be courageous every week -- regardless of their title or role. Picture the results of a team with such high morale and unified commitment to their own group mission, as well as the company's, that its members feel a true sense of ownership and responsibility. Or, visualize the leader who inspires a level of momentum that ushers in a new, more effective way of working and a stronger sense of purpose. All are possible, and each requires courage.
Benefits of courage in the workplace
Drawn from this quote are many of the natural benefits derived from demonstrating courage in the workplace. Benefits like: high morale; commitment to the group mission; ownership; responsibility; momentum; effective; and stronger sense of purpose.
I would add words like: openness, freedom and power.
I close with a few questions that all members of your team can ask themselves regarding courage. Use these questions to help you determine what you can do to step up, step out and find your courageous voice.
- What is your vision for the business/group/department?
- How, specifically, can you be more courageous in your role at work?
- What communication skill would help you become more courageous?
- What tangible benefits will arise from your courageous action?
DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.
She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email email@example.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.