I founded Giant Leap Consulting with a mission to inspire people and organizations to have more courage. I choose inspiring courage as our mission because I agree with Aristotle,
“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.”
In other words, courage is the most important virtue because it makes all the other virtues possible. If that is true, then courage should also be the first virtue of business. Courage, after all, is the lifeblood of leadership, entrepreneurialism, and innovation. In fact, courage is so critical to these things that they can’t exist without it.
While courage may be the premier business virtue, in many workplaces it is desperately lacking. Workers are either too comfortable to change or too afraid to try new things. Or, both! When workers’ actions are directed by comfort and fear, underperformance will always be the result. As a manager, you need to be keenly aware of the dangers that comfort and fear present and equipped with strategies for mitigating them.
If the last few years are a forecast for the future, the workplace is and will continue to be fraught with daily challenges—challenges that may provoke fear, stress, or even excitement; but challenges nonetheless. These challenges can, potentially, inspire our courage or undermine our performance. As a leader, it is important to help individuals access their own courage and enlarge their capacity to be courageous so that they can meet these challenges with more confidence and less trepidation. Consider the stories of the leaders, heroes, and people you admire. Most often their success hinged on courageous moments during which they did something hard, challenging, or scary and kept moving forward.
As a leader, it is important to help individuals access their own courage and enlarge their capacity to be courageous.
Building courage in your organization can help transform the culture of an organization by, potentially, driving out fear. The evidence is overwhelming that fear-based organizations have low levels of employee engagement and productivity. By driving out fear and building courage in the workforce, you elevate performance. People become much more willing to seek out challenges, to aspire to a higher standard, and to create a bold future when they are operating out of confidence, courage, and conviction . . . rather than fear.
Inspiring Courage in Leaders
People have high, and often conflicting, expectations of leaders. At once, we expect leaders to be reasonable but passionate, decisive but inclusive, visionary but explicit, and powerful but humble. We also want leaders who are rational but emotionally intelligent, caring but impartial, and profit-driven but people-oriented.
The list of expectations is so long and contradictory that the aspiring leader is right to ask, “Where on earth do I start?!” The answer is courage.
When it comes to the performance, effectiveness, and impact of a leader, getting courage right has many peripheral benefits. It is courage that enables a leader to face troubling times, suffer through hardships, and step up to challenges. Courage gives leadership its backbone.
It is courage that enables a leader to face troubling times, suffer through hardships, and step up to challenges.
That’s true in life, but it is also true in the workplace. Courage connects to pretty much every facet of organizational performance. Leadership takes courage, for example, because it requires making bold decisions that some people won’t agree with or support. Innovation takes courage because innovation requires creating ideas that are ground-breaking and tradition-defying. Sales takes courage because it requires knocking on the doors of prospects over and over in the face of rejection. Courage is so central to concepts like leadership, innovation, and sales that they don’t exist in the absence of courage. Yet, surprisingly, despite the central role that courage plays in organizational success until now there have been few training programs devoted solely to building courage in the workplace.
And all of this points to one time-tested fact. People perform better when they are courageous and confident than when they are anxious and afraid.
As a leader, you are in a position to have a meaningful and positive impact on people’s lives, personally and professionally. When people become more courageous, amazing things happen. When people are encouraged to build their courage, they walk away with clearer goals, sharper focus, and more loyalty—to themselves and to the organizations they serve. Under your guidance, many participants will become “unstuck” and many more will have career breakthroughs. The best advice for you to follow, whether you are an individual contributor or leader is this: Be courageous.
What would your teams look like if everyone showed up with more courage each day?
Bill Treasurer is the founder of Giant Leap Consulting, a courage-building company that has designed, developed, and delivered comprehensive leadership programs to thousands of leaders across the globe. Also, he is the author of six published leadership books, including Courage Goes to Work which this post is based on. To bring courageous leadership to your organization, check out our courage-building courses.