I always like to set myself ambitious goals. My thinking is if they are too easy, then what’s the point? This year is no different and I’ve set myself a goal to write a book on mindset and being comfortable living in your own skin. OMG! I’ve got a mixture of emotions about it …. mostly excitement, but the truth is, deep down, I’m absolutely terrified! My fears kick in - what if no one reads it, or worse, everyone thinks its rubbish? Or I get judged? Experience tells me it’s in moments like this I know I will have to rely on my sheer stubbornness and force of will to never let my fears win, even when there are really good reasons to be afraid, to get the book written. After all what’s the alternative? Let my fears win and become small, voiceless and irrelevant? No thanks! So it’s over to me to find some backbone.
Being a leader is having courage to act in extraordinary ways, especially when you feel everything is weighted against you. I know my fears mean prevarication, excuses, binge watching boxsets …anything to avoid action and facing my fears. I know that courage is recognising when to stop indulging in the “what if” questions, the negative self-talk and managing my own mindset. After all “fear is the teacher of courage” (Nelson Mandela) and as leaders we rise beyond fear, grow smarter, stronger and more resilient.
Courage underpins great leadership to make bold and sometimes unpopular decisions, create a culture that supports innovation and ground-breaking ideas, root out and challenge mediocrity and complacency and above all be a role model. Courageous leadership is powerful and its my job to tap into that and encourage it within my team. With more courage my teams can take on complex projects, manage ambiguity and speak up more freely about their challenges and their concerns. As a business leader and entrepreneur its my job to encourage and embolden my team.
So how can we as leaders be more courageous? Leaders have to access different types of courage to demonstrate speed, action and decisiveness to disrupt the status quo and steer a steady course through uncertainty and ambiguity and ensure clear, constructive and meaningful engagement with stakeholders.
Connect with the emotional experience - As leaders we have to be aware of our core emotions - happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust - and have the courage to be vulnerable and authentic. Fear is just another emotion and, with some self awareness and a change of perspective, it can be overcome. For example I have always had a fear of public speaking but I recognised over the years my fear has nothing to do with the act of public speaking but the emotion associated with being ridiculed or embarrassed. As a leader I have had to do some hard talking with myself and face these fears head on. Courage is being freaked out by something and doing it anyway because each time you do the thing you’re freaked out by, you’ll be less scared by it. Courage and leadership is like a muscle – keep working it and it gets stronger!
Don’t conform to the expectations of others – as leaders we have to sometimes rock the boat and break with conformity. This has always been a challenge for me as I find it tricky to break ranks but I sometimes need to take a position and stand up for what I believe in. A few years ago I took a stand against what I perceived to be a culture of corporate bullying by some senior leaders against junior staff. I called it out and it didn't go well! I couldn’t remain silent and I felt I needed to protect my team. By using my own inner code of what I felt was right and wrong, self-reflection and listening to my conscience, I made a judgment and took responsibility for the consequences of my actions. It took courage and I feel it defined me as a leader.
Being resilient and persevere – always have a plan B and have the courage to accept that sometimes we will fail - because its true! Leadership is about perseverance and an understanding that failure isn’t necessarily the end but finding out what does and doesn’t work to learn from it. We have to keep trying and remember that failure is often just a stepping stone to success. But don’t dwell. Failure can be embarrassing but be prepared to own it and move on. Your team will forget and move on as well.
Leadership is a choice - as a leader your role is to inspire, encourage and motivate your teams to accomplish more then they feel they can do and help to develop their talents. Leadership is being a role model and demonstrate to others what courage is all about.
· Allow your teams to speak up – create a safe and supportive environment that allows voice to your team’s concerns, feelings and thoughts. Things that aren't talked out often get acted out as unfulfilled needs and unresolved resentments. Be respectful so you can build trust and good relationships with your teams to let them know who you are, what you need, what you are care about and what you can do. .
· Be responsible - you can't always control your circumstances but you can always choose how you respond to them. There will be times when you tried something but it didn’t work out. How did it help you grow in wisdom and experience? Overcoming failures on the way to your goals is what brings the greatest sense of achievement and persevering in the face of resistance requires determination. Remember all that matters is that you, and your team, had the guts to try.
· Develop a growth mindset. Psychologist Carol Dweck in “The Growth Mindset” says what matters in life is trying and what you learn along the way. Learn by doing and be curious as that’s how you achieve results. Knowing that you can do, try, fail, learn and try again gives you the courage to keep going.
· Step outside your comfort zone – always be willing to do the right thing even if this means leaving the safe path and run the risk of failure or disapproval. Have the guts to make changes, take chances to realise your own talents and step outside of your comfort zone to find your potential
· Dream big- create a vision for your life that is bigger than the one you've have now in your relationships, your career, and your life. You will never be able to have the life you want unless you dream big. Courage is everywhere and look to be inspired by family, friends, colleagues and your role models,
· Be yourself - it takes courage to express yourself fully and with authenticity. Be yourself as there is nothing more valuable or attractive. If you allow yourself to be vulnerable you can connect with others more openly and with compassion.
Ultimately, be the leader you want to be with courage.