Courage is the Key to Great Leadership

Contributed by Bill Treasurer, the founder and Chief Encourager at Giant Leap Consulting.

Aristotle called courage the first virtue, because it makes all of the other virtues possible. In addition to being the most important human virtue, it is the most important business virtue, as well. Think about it: Other important business concepts like leadership, innovation and sales wither in the absence of courage.

Leadership takes making bold and often unpopular decisions. Leadership takes courage. Innovation involves creating ground-breaking but tradition-defying ideas. Innovation takes courage. Sales require being repeatedly rejected before closing a deal. Sales take courage. Take away courage, and sales, innovation and leadership lose their potency.Contrary to popular belief, courage is a teachable and learnable skill, and most everyone has the capacity to be courageous. Moreover, nearly all courageous acts represent one or more of three types of courage:

  • TRY Courage: The courage of initiative and action— making first attempts, pursuing pioneering efforts and stepping up to the plate
  • TRUST Courage: The courage of confidence in others— letting go of the need to control situations or outcomes, having faith in people and being open to direction and change
  • TELL Courage: The courage of voice— raising difficult issues, providing tough feedback and sharing unpopular opinions

The good news is everyone has the capacity for being courageous. I long ago traded my Speedo for a business suit, and these days I devote my life to helping people and organizations be more courageous. The most important lesson my clients have taught me is that the entire workforce wins when everyone shows up to work each day with more courage.  With less fear and more courage, workers take on harder projects, deal better with change and speak up more willingly about important issues. In short, courageous workers try more, trust more and tell more. As a business leader and entrepreneur, your job is to put courage inside of people— to encourage them. By applying the three different types of courage, as well as the tips above, courage can be put to good use in your own workplace.

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