Last week, I had a graduate student to shadow me for a day, and over lunch she asked, “What do you believe are the characteristics of a good leader?” I shared with her several qualities that I believed to be important for leaders, including courage.
Later that day, she commented that she had been thinking a lot about the word courage. She said that courage as a leadership trait had not been mentioned in any of her graduate work. She appreciated my sharing it with her, and she said she was going to give it more attention and bring it up in her graduate class that evening.
Leaders today must be courageous. They must model courageous action in the workplace and prepare aspiring leaders for the demands of the role. Courageous action and risk-taking builds trust, an important part of a positive culture. Actions that help develop positive cultures are among the many things that need to be shared with aspiring leaders as they prepare to transition into leadership roles.
Here are 5 courageous actions all leaders should be modeling.
Try something new. Learning something new creates vulnerability in the learner, and courageous leaders are willing to be vulnerable through the learning process. Courageous leaders step out of their comfort zone and push themselves to continually grow.
Speak honestly. Courageous leaders speak their opinion, and don’t dance around issues. They don’t look for conflict, but are willing to face it if necessary and have crucial conversations to address important issues.
Challenge the status quo. It’s comfortable and easy to do what’s always been done. Leaders step up and lead necessary change.
Walk the walk. Courageous leaders held themselves and others accountable. It takes courage to call someone out when they don’t follow through. Courageous leaders stick to their commitments, showing courageous persistence in working towards a goal.
Don’t have all the answers. Courageous leaders are okay with saying “I don’t know,” and they encourage others to challenge them on their ideas. They look for diversity to strengthen the team, believing that “we” is better than “me.”
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”
― Douglas McArthur
Courageous leadership is not bravado. It’s leading from the heart, and aligning one’s actions with beliefs. It’s doing the hard stuff because it has to be done, and being truthful through the process. It’s one of the most important qualities of a leader.