Opportunities for “courageous leadership” at work occur nearly every day. From speaking up during a company meeting to overcoming an obstacle that hinders professional advancement, these instances are often the defining moments of a person’s career. Unfortunately, most people don’t claim courage as one of the primary virtues they display at work. They mistakenly believe courage is only relevant during perilous times. As a result, they don’t perceive exploring new ideas, confronting gossip, transitioning to a new career, transcending rejection, or taking initiative as courageous leadership moments.
Applying courage at work
The word courage comes from the French corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” Historically, great leaders always acted from their hearts, but notions of courage as heroic have diminished this heartfelt value. By developing the following behaviors in yourself, you’ll be better able to call upon true courage when needed:
- Constantly affirm your strength and determination. Realize that no one expects you to be perfect—only to do your best. Take time for daily reflection so you can evaluate your resources and how you can best use them. When you know how your strengths can benefit your organization, you’ll be able to do what you believe is right and see any challenge as an opportunity for professional growth.
- Hurdle obstacles and take risks. Every behavior you exhibit and every action you take is a conscious choice. Give yourself permission to be different so you can creatively navigate your way around, through, or over any obstacles that cross your path. When fear sets in, ask yourself “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I do this?” Usually the worst never occurs, so take the risk.
- Manifest vision. There are no shortcuts when it comes to courageous leadership. Know where you want to go and develop a clear vision of your goal. Become stubborn about attaining your vision so you can discard any nonproductive judgments others put on you.
- Reflect self-esteem. All your actions reflect who you are and what you stand for. If you’re repeating a behavior you don’t like, ask “How can I change?” Sharpen your skills and abilities through education and training, and surround yourself with the kind of people you want to become.
- Speak up. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, trust your intuition and tell those involved why you believe things aren’t right. Exercise your courageous voice by challenging the status quo and making waves when someone puts you down or when water cooler gossip gets out of hand.
Claim your courage today
If courage has eluded you in the past, now is the time to step up and make your daily job performance a profile in courage that reveals your heart and spirit. Confront issues even when your job is at stake. Be vulnerable enough to admit a mistake. Reinvent yourself to transcend an old career and begin a new one. And most important, manifest a vision and follow it. When you follow a decisive course of action and do what it takes to advance professionally, you become a catalyst for profound change and an initiator who can lead others to the same path. When you demonstrate such courageous leadership capabilities, professional success is sure to follow.
Enhance your courage quotient with this exercise
First, recall a moment in your work life when you were proud of yourself. Maybe you finally confronted the supervisor who berated you in front of others. Perhaps you committed to learning a new skill. Strive to relive that experience and zero in on the specific behavior you employed that made the difference. This was your courage at work!
Next, think of a recent time when you failed to display courage or tap into its energy. This was a missed opportunity that can never be reclaimed—and you don’t want that to happen again. Ask yourself how the outcome may have been different if you had acted more courageously.
Finally, write down your commitment to claim your courage and display it in a place you’re sure to see every day. As you follow your course, let this commitment be the star by which you navigate. Continually track yourself by noticing how your actions reveal your authenticity and how you’ve applied your courage behaviors.
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