Want to know how to improve courage as a leader? Then you’re in the right place.
Authentic leadership is powered by courage. Being a leader requires awareness of this, who you are, and also skills development showing oneself. The good news is that courage can be developed, measured and tracked in order to illustrate changes in this area. But before we start working on courage, the important question is the motivation for the change we want to make.
So first, it is worth answering ourselves where we need more courage, why we need this change, what it will do to make it different, what will change in me as a leader and, finally, how others will feel about it.
Now that we know what we need courage for, we can get down to work on it. Each of us can develop courage in himself or herself. by practicing the following four competences:
– A conscious use of one’s own sensitivity.
– Awareness of one’s own values and living in harmony with them.
– Building trust in oneself and others.
– Getting up from difficulties.
How To Improve Courage As a Leader:
Pillar 1: Sensitivity
It’s about willingness and courage to show ourselves as we really are. It’s about courage to reveal sensitive places. An illustration of sensitivity understood as vulnerability is, for example, the willingness to admit to ignorance, to fear, to the joy we feel, and sometimes to success. It is about crossing a certain limit of fear, for which we expect a negative evaluation.
Watch out for traps
One of the traps that awaits us on the path of taming our sensitivity is what we can laboriously call “revealing everything to everyone”. Sensitivity is about the willingness to show oneself in a specially created environment, characterised by a sense of security, intimacy and trust.
This is particularly important in the context of organisations where the level of trust can vary greatly. The most important thing is that every leader should have at least one place in their world where they can simply not pretend to be in front of themselves and others. Such a space can be: home, friends, coaching, therapy or relationship with a mentor.
Two steps to sensitivity
Two things are the essence of sensitivity development. First, to realize what negative beliefs about sensitivity we have soaked up over the course of our lives.
The most popular ones I hear about in my work are:
→ Sensitivity is a weakness
→ I don’t need sensitivity for life
→ if you’re too sensitive, people will take advantage of it.
The process of awareness has already been written down in its dynamics change, but it’s worthwhile to make a list of such beliefs to answer one additional question: do these beliefs bring me closer to being what I want to be?
Once we have overcome our beliefs, we are ready to move on to the planning stage:
→ In what circumstances do I feel safe enough to open up? How will I create them?
→ How do I feel when I don’t have someone to talk to about what’s going on inside me? – How does it affect me? On my surroundings? On my professional effectiveness?
→ How can I benefit from my sensitivity at work?
→ How can it support me in my everyday life?
→ How will I take care of it? How will I develop it?
Pillar 2: Values
Values are ideas on which we’re building a base reality private and professional. It is worth remembering that the values of it’s something that changes over time, evolves. and it’s undergoing transformation.
Something that was important to us a year ago, e.g. financial stability, now it has stopped to matter, because in first place… came into personal development, in which we began to invest. Or have we replaced the value of “traveling” to the value of “family”, because we decided to wear one.
Values are such lighthouses that at moments when a decision has to be made, in moments of turbulence and uncertainty… will point us in the right direction. How to find them? There are several ways to find them.
Find out what’s important to you
The simplest thing we can do to find out what is most important to us is to take a look at our bank statement from last year and see what we spend the most on.
Money is, in other words, the time we spent on earning it, and then we decided to exchange it for something else. For many people it is a difficult exercise, because it shows that we do not necessarily invest in what is really the most important for us.
Maybe it will turn out that during this year we spent the most on health, retraining or traveling. Or maybe the first place of expenses was occupied by things related to home furnishing.
Whatever we discover there, let us write down a list of the three most frequently appearing groups of expenses and consider whether they represent the values we want our money to consume. If it turns out that we feel consistency in how we want to live, with what we spend our money on, then everything is fine.
However, if there is a clear divergence between what we invest, and what’s most important to us, it’s worth doing a life inventory. It happens that this disagreement of values vs. behavior (1) can be painful and at the same time, the key point changes in our lives that will bring us closer together to a sense of consistency and meaning.
Another way to find out what it is it’s important for us in our lives to write down 15 values that are important to us.
They can be e.g. health, friendship, family, happiness, love, work, development, honesty, courage, travel, fun, trust, nature, financial stability, creativity.
From that list we then select the five most important. In the next from the selected five steps, we choose the two most important ones. Narrowing down from the list fifteen to two helps us along the way of the eliminations to estimate what really is the most important thing for us in the thicket important things.
This way of investigation to its own values often awakens a lot of resistance among the people who perform them, because they’re declaring that it’s very difficult to narrow down such a wide list.
I guarantee however, that when we put a lot of effort into choosing of these two most important axes of our lives, it’s in our daily lives the dilemmas will enter the clarity of whether we are in this place in life where we want to be.
Pillar 3: Trust
The colloquial meaning of the word ‘trust’ is quite superficial and at the same time, very broad. Trust is the foundation of a sense of security on which relationships can be built, both individually and in society as a whole.
But when we tell someone that we trust them, or when we find out that they trust us, do we know exactly what that means?
Looking at the subject of trust, I come to the conclusion that trust is not one skill, but… seven. Here they are:
- Responsibility: the ability to admit mistakes.
- Keeping secrets: the ability to keep secret the information that someone has entrusted to us with this intention.
- Credibility: the ability to do what we agree to do.
- Acceptance of boundaries: ability to set and respect the boundaries of others.
- Kindness of interpretation: the ability to assume the best intentions.
- Neutrality: the ability to refrain from judgement, especially when we ask someone for help.
- Integrity: the ability to live according to values.
Trust is something that is built up gradually over time. It is impossible to say: Trust me, and expect the environment to do it right away.
We build trust by fulfilling our promises (2), building relationships in the kitchen, having coffee, meeting deadlines, and remembering that our friend’s child is waiting for his high school exam results.
Small steps build great trust. So if the leader-environmental relationship does not pay attention to small steps built on the basis of these seven indicators, the chances of a solid foundation of trust are rather poor.
It is worthwhile to remember that trust has two sides. One of them is trusting other people, and the other is trusting yourself. Both these forces are an important element of leadership. We will look at to each and every one of these perspectives now.
Trust to others
In a relationship with another person, whether professional or private, it is worth checking which element of trust from these seven is the best and which one is worth working on.
Perhaps it is the case that we are unable to set limits in our relations with the boss or the other side is unable to respect them. And perhaps in some relationships the person to whom we entrust some information does not keep his word and shares it with others.
Choose a relationship with one person in your environment where you want to take a look at the subject of trust. Then answer the question to the following questions:
→ Can this person admit his mistake and take for himself his responsibility? – Does he blame others?
→ Does this person keep the secrets entrusted to him?
→ Does the person fulfill what he commits himself to?
→ Does this person respect my limits?
→ Does this person assume my good intentions?
→ Do I feel invaluable in my relationship with this person?
→ Can I freely ask for help in this relationship?
→ Do I live according to my own values?
In the next step, answer the following questions:
→ Which of these elements is the strength of your relationship?
→ Which of these elements is the weakest part of your relationship?
→ Why don’t you think this aspect of trust works?
→ What are you ready to do to strengthen this element?
→ What are you willing to ask the other side to work together on this area?
Trust to yourself
Trusting yourself can be a source of enormous strength. As well as trusting others, it forms the basis of our relationship with ourselves.
In the next exercise we will apply the same matrix of questions to this issue as before. This time, however, we will take the relationship with ourselves in the workshop:
→ Do I take responsibility for my mistakes and can I admit to them? Do I blame others?
→ Do I respect my willingness to reveal myself? Do I not reveal more than I am ready to reveal?
→ Do I do what I say I will do?
→ Do I set and then respect my own boundaries?
→ Do I assume my good intentions?
→ Do I judge myself? Do I criticize myself for needing Help?
→ Do I live by my values? Am I consistent?
In the next step we answer the following questions:
→ Which of these elements is the strength of my relationship with myself?
→ Which of these elements is the weakest part of my relationship with myself?
→ Why does this aspect of trust not work in my opinion?
→ What am I prepared to do to strengthen this element?
This aspect of trust can also be looked at through the following questions:
→ Do we in our team take responsibility for our mistakes or do we blame others?
→ As a team, are we able to keep the a secret?
→ As a team, do we keep our promised deadlines?
→ As a team, can we build and then respect …the limits set?
→ Do we assume good intentions of everyone in our team? with the members?
→ Can we ask for help and not treat it as a weakness?
→ Are we in our team acting in accordance with the following criteria by your own values?
Pillar 4: Difficulties
People need to be taught how to land before they can jump. Parachute adepts spend a lot of time jumping from the ladder. In this way they learn how to hit the ground in order not to hurt themselves.
Personally, I’ve never taken part in such a training before, but I had the opportunity to observe it before. The same applies to leadership. You can’t expect people to be brave and risk failure if they haven’t had the chance to prepare for a hard landing before.
As we go through difficult moments in our lives, we go through three phases: recognition, struggle and revolution.
This process can be described as follows:
Phase 1 – the so-called initiating event takes place, i.e. something that starts the trajectory of difficult moments. Initiating events are very different, e.g.: difficult conversation with someone, illness, surprising news not according to our thoughts, unsuccessful speech, divorce, firing someone, being fired, loss of client, etc.
Phase 2 – then the processes connected with experiencing phase 1 take place internally and externally in us. Most of the emotional events take place here. We experience a whole range of feelings and on their basis we choose different types of behaviour.
Phase 3 – if we have courage and strength we do not to suppress what happened in the phase 1 and 2, we learn as much as we can about each other, about others, about the world of the event, which will help us develop as a to people.
Now think about some difficult event from your professional or private life that you have experienced. Recall the situation from memory, that was emotionally, physically, temporally or financially costly to you.
Take a look at it using the following questions:
Phase 1 – What exactly happened? What was the triggering point of the situation? What was the first emotion that appeared in you?
Phase 2 – What emotions appeared in you? Were they: shame, anxiety, anger, regret, sadness, etc.? What exactly caused them? What was really behind your reaction? Did you cover your fear with anger? What was your first interpretation of the event? How did you evaluate yourself in it? How did you rate the others involved in the event?
Phase 3 – What is the most important lesson for you? What would you do otherwise next time? What is it? the event taught you about yourself? About others? About the world? Example lessons from this stage can be e.g. such:
→ Next time I will dare to ask for help.
→ I will be watching over you to stand up and respect your boundaries.
→ I will not agree to an additional project
→ I will speak at the teleconference.
In this three-step process, we need to be aware of two traps we can fall into.
One of them is creating false scenarios on the basis of incomplete data. So we have to be careful whether at the moment of emotional stimulation, on the basis of just a few facts, we do not create a complex causal chain of events.
This could be as follows: we send someone an important e-mail, he does not answer to us, so we start to interpret it as e.g. ignorance, reluctance to us or we start to believe that a given issue or we are not important to this person.
Is the story I tell myself in my head true? Let’s check which elements are facts and which are my assumptions? In such a situation, it is worth simply taking a piece of paper and dividing it in half. On the one hand, write down all the facts about this situation, and on the other hand, write down the assumptions we made.
The most frequent conclusion of this exercise is the reflection that on the basis of one or sometimes two facts a long list of assumptions is created. A way out of such a situation will be to question the assumptions made.
We all know it: suppression of emotions. In order not to fall into these traps, which can effectively block the transition to the revolutionary phase, it is worth asking yourself the following questions:
→ Can I recognize the emotions that came into me then?
→ How did I react to them?
→ What was really behind my reaction?
→ Did I not suppress my emotions, and thus deprive myself of the data that carries the information needed to analyze the situation?
The most important thing in working on these four competences is not only the knowledge about them, but also the practice. Awareness of their existence is not enough, the key in the process of developing courageous leadership is their exercise.
Just like with physical exercises. It is worth to develop these skills in situations, those that are important and less important, those that we expect and those that come by surprise.
It is like a muscle – the more we use it, the stronger it gets. The more we want to be brave, the more often we have to practice this courage.
Thank you for reading this article about how to improve courage as a leader and I really hope that you take action my advice.
I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.