In this series, we're focusing on nourishing a culture of leadership by applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this episode, we're exploring Courage. Whether we feel courageous or not, each of us leads with courage every single day. Learn to work intentionally with courage - as a leader and in your organization.
Leadership Development Focus: Courage
Brené Brown, a wise teacher about internal work, shares an original definition of courage as “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”
Courage leading one’s life is tough enough! And yet, we each have it. We lead our lives into the unknown, every moment. This takes courage. We each have stories of where we have been particularly courageous in leading our lives. Even getting out of bed in the morning is an act of courage. If you are saying “I am not so sure about my courage”, we wish to assure you that you have it!
Courage is about showing up fully in your world, right from getting out of bed every day. It is about showing up in your genuine self, the truth of you is what being in courage is about. Courage is internal and private to each of us. To work on courage, you need to dive deeply into your inner world.
What does courage mean to you?
Leadership with Courage
We can take some lessons from the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz as Dorothy exhibited leadership with courage. Dorothy showed courage in getting on the yellow brick road, the unknown, to find the wizard, another unknown, to seek a result, another unknown. This was about sort of knowing what she was doing, and yet there was very much that was unknown about it. This is such a great example of courage in which the path is unknown and the result is unknown. Dorothy’s courage of self-leadership was essential to get moving. She simply committed to the adventure. If you pause and reflect about whether your path or your results are known, you will likely understand that you live your life in the unknown. You also on a regular basis self-lead with courage to motivate yourself to get on your own yellow brick road. It is easier to motivate yourself to get moving if you simply commit to the adventure.
In gathering up the tin man, the straw man and the lion, Dorothy’s leadership gathered and motivated others, even though she had only an unknown to offer them. She offered hope, something that might be possible, and yet the certainty of results was unknown and the exact path was unknown with the exception that it was known to follow the yellow brick road. Those who followed her did not know what it would take to follow this road, how long the road would be, whether the road actually continued, or whether there were dangers and obstacles. In our lives, we do this too, creating our own examples of leadership with courage as we head into the unknown and others make the choice to accompany us.
Dorothy did come across demons, illusion, a reality she didn’t understand, and with her courageous leadership, the others engaged in their own leadership for them all to succeed. She would not have sat down and discussed her leadership style and was probably not aware of it. However, from our vantage point we can attest to her skillfulness in leading so others would lead.
And finally, she discovers that the wisdom to do what she needs to do has always been with her. It takes courage to admit that where she thought the solution was, was not so...and where she didn’t initially look was where the desired outcome was. In her leadership, even with others trusting her, she remained open to surprise. With her own knowledge, and yes with the ruby slippers that she had been wearing all along, she knew how to get home to Kansas. A key here is that she remained open to surprise. A barrier to staying in your courage in leadership is when we are not present to a solution that might be right here, right now, with us because we feel we have to lead in a certain way and we don’t stay open to surprise. In being gifted in leadership with courage, and remaining open to surprise, we are able even to laugh at ourselves in the moment and say “look it, the solution has been here all along!
Developing the Leadership Capacity for Leading with Courage
Activity 1: Do Something You’ve Never Done Before
Begin with an activity focused on courage with your own life. Every month on the anniversary of your birthday, do something you have never done before…taking yourself into the unknown. Pay attention to your feelings before, during, and after the activity. Pay particular attention to when you are feeling fearful and when you are feeling excited. These two feelings can be experienced as almost the same, and yet they are different. Pay attention to your willingness. Are you willing or are you resisting going into the unknown or doing that which is unknown to you?
Notice changes over time. Do you notice a shift to more and more excitement? Do you notice your willingness increasing over time and with experiences of having survived your adventures into the unknown or in doing that which was unknown to you? You might find yourself saying to yourself “why did I get so worked up about that? It wasn’t so hard.”
Activity 2: Create an Adventure
Create an adventure in which you take leadership into the unknown with another person. Just one other, maybe a family member or close friend. It could be something like going on a hike in a place you have never been. Challenge yourself to help the other person experience their own leadership even though the person is going into the unknown with you. What are you noticing before, during and after regarding your leadership with courage?
Activity 3: Review and Reflection
Review your notes from activities 1 and 2. Discern what you have discovered about your capacity for leadership with courage. As you are making these notes, you are paying attention to your own leadership with courage. Because leadership often involves others, what are you noticing about how others engage with you when you are in your leadership with courage.
Activity 4: What If…
Do this activity only after completing the first three.
You are at the end of the yellow brick road. You discover illusion, deception, and that your anticipated outcomes seem to have evaporated. What can you do? How would you exercise your leadership with courage? What would it take for you to be sufficiently comfortable leading into the unknown? Be deeply honest with yourself.
Strengthening Your Leadership Capacity for Leading with Courage
In the yellow brick road story, you figured out what you would do when you discover illusion, deception, and that your anticipated outcomes have evaporated. To strengthen your leadership capacity for leading with courage, make use of what you have figured out in the yellow brick road story.
In your leadership, you also discover illusion, deception, and have situations in which your anticipated outcomes have evaporated. Go back to what you figured out when you encountered these in the yellow brick road story. Reflect about how much of what you figured out about what you would do, could apply in your leadership. Teach yourself through reflection and developing a sense of your responses, what you would do.
Make use of what you have figured out, daily, as you go about your leadership with new awareness.
You discover illusion, deception, and that your anticipated outcomes seem to have evaporated. What can you do? How would you exercise your leadership with courage? What would it take for you to be sufficiently comfortable leading into the unknown? Be deeply honest with yourself.
About the Developing Leadership Series
We work the Genuine Contact way, nourishing a culture of leadership, applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this learning series, Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership. We'll be inviting you to consider your own experiences in life and business so far, and how you want to further your leadership development with this theme.
In this series, our intention is to offer you unique opportunities to continually develop your leadership. By developing your leadership you expand your potential. Your life changes and you gain greater insights and capacity for leading your life. Your leadership of your team, organization, congregation, and even your family brings about possibility thinking, transcending ordinary thinking and ordinary results.
In each episode, we will be exploring one key principle. You will hear our own experiences and understanding of each of these timeless principles. We'll suggest simple activities you can do to develop your own leadership by working with these principles too. Subscribe to receive future episodes by email.