4 Myths that Undermine Courage at Work

Debunking four courage myths that linger in the workplace:

  1. Most People Display Courage at Work

Like demonstrating ethical standards, most people tend to be followers. There are loads of stories that when asked or told to do something unethical, most people will do what they are told. With courage, when a situation requires you to display your heart, do you fall on your sword or cross swords? For example, working at a hospital, you notice that a peer decides to reduce the number of procedures required to disinfect and sterilize surgical utensils. Will you be the whistle-blower?

  1. Everybody Is a Hero at Heart

Most people believe firefighters and police officers are heroes. They were called heroes after Sept. 11. However, ask these professionals if they think of themselves as heroes and they will say, “No, I am trained to do my job. If you call 911, it’s a day from hell for you, not me.” Most people are not “heroes,” but we seem to associate only heroes with having courage. Certainly the hijacked group of 9/11 passengers who curtailed the loss of additional lives demonstrated heroic passenger boldness. However, everyday courage is not amazing or sensational. We just pay tribute to these types of brave actions more than we recognize and validate our everyday courage actions such as speaking truth to power.

  1. Courage Leadership Development in Business Is Easy

If the goal is to implement a courageous culture, then employees must be led by example. It’s the same with quality control, risk-management and diversity. Courage leadership in business means managing with courage the paradoxes that occur, such as:

  • If I tell my boss we’ve understated our debt by a million dollars, I lose my job. If I don’t tell my boss, I may go to jail.
  • You are given an assignment that doesn’t make sense? What do you do? (This example tends to be more prominent the higher up one goes.)
  • If I empower my team with courage, then how do I stop them from utilizing their individual courage much less control them?
  1. Past Generations Had an Easier Time Being Courageous Because Work Was Less Complicated

Courageous behaviors displayed by Florence Nightingale, Vivian T. Thomas, Katherine Graham, Alexander Fleming and Viktor Frankl were just as difficult to attain then as they are now. All generations have a set of barriers to overcome. That’s just one more reason why courageous behaviors in the workplace must be managed, such as being able to admit a mistake (error reduction), speaking up with candor and grace when facing a difficult situation, promoting an ability to think on your feet, tackling issues as the facts happen, sponsoring challenges to the model/system and creating a culture that commends instead of blames, to name a few.

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