Your five-year plan includes a new office, a raise, and a new apartment, but none of that will be possible unless you get a promotion. You know you have the qualifications, the drive, and the vision to do great things as a leader—if you could get out of your head.
A characteristic that sets leaders apart is courage. Courage to face your fears and overcome your weaknesses. Courage to confront others, take initiative, and speak up. But it also takes courage to lead with compassion, listen well, and understand others. It takes courage to let others shine, ask for feedback, and admit your mistakes.
At Front Line Leadership, we want leaders from CEOs to warehouse supervisors to get out of their own way and lead effectively. Sometimes that means changing the way you think or adjusting your self-talk to avoid operating out of fear. Fear often presents itself in many ways, such as the fear of failure that inhibits your decision-making, the fear of exposing your weaknesses, the fear of letting others show off their skills or the fear of rocking the boat. In all these circumstances, courage is required to persevere and do the hard work of leading well.
Three Roadblocks You May Face
Three things distract many people, causing them to operate out of fear:
1. Discomfort: Fearing discomfort is a motivator that many people overlook. We feel comfortable when everyone is getting along, when we know our role/ what’s expected of us, when we feel safe, and when we are well-liked. Therefore, many people don’t leave their “comfort zone.” But good leaders need to be courageous and leave their comfort zone regularly. They cannot avoid making hard decisions or shying away from difficult situations. Instead, they courageously choose to speak up, live out their values, and try new strategies—even if it means risking their popularity.
2. Vulnerability: Choosing to be vulnerable is one way leaders practice courage. Vulnerability allows you to connect with others and understand different perspectives, helping leaders become more compassionate. One of the best ways to encourage vulnerability in others is to be vulnerable first. It’s difficult to admit your mistakes or weaknesses, but authentic leadership means being honest about what you don’t know or don’t do well. Then, surround yourself with people who can help you make the best decision or execute a plan. It’s perfectly acceptable to let your employees or coworkers see your humanity and humility.
3. Confrontation: A fear of confrontation keeps many people from achieving their full leadership potential. As a leader, you will inevitably rock the boat. However, confrontation doesn’t have to be a negative experience. It is possible to disagree, provide feedback, and implement important changes in a way that is productive and beneficial. The point is that courageous leaders don’t shy away from addressing problems and seeking positive solutions. Learning effective communication skills and conflict resolution techniques helps you develop as a leader, encourages employees to grow, shifts the company towards a healthier culture, and enhances innovation.
5 Strategies for Developing Courage
1. Engage in Confrontation: Adjust how you view confrontation by telling yourself the truth: That confrontation is often necessary and helpful. Regularly put yourself in uncomfortable situations to strengthen your courage to speak up and speak honestly, even if it causes friction. The more often you engage in conflict, the easier it will become.
2. Request Feedback: Practice humility by seeking feedback from the people with whom you have conflict. Once emotions have settled, make it clear that you want to grow in this area and get advice on what was and wasn’t appreciated during a courageous conversation.
3. Address Issues Head-On: When you see an issue, address it swiftly. When you tackle problems head-on, there will be less frustration, push-back, and disruption. The longer you ignore issues or waffle on whether to push the status quo, the less your team will trust you and the harder it will be to make changes in the future. Instead, act courageously and be proud of your decision to induce positive change.
4. Don’t Resist Intuition: Trust your gut instincts. When something isn’t right, explore it and uncover issues that may be inhibiting a healthy work environment, innovation, or collaboration. Voice your opinion with confidence and work to solve the problems you sense are there.
5. Share with Others: Rely on a trusted friend or colleague. Many times, the best way to overcome fear is to name it. Tell someone what is going on in your mind, what you’re hesitant to do, or an outcome you’re afraid of. Ignoring or burying fear only holds you back. As you share your fears with a peer, you broaden your perspective and position yourself to receive advice. This is paramount in helping you move forward with courage.
Our unique programs at Front Line Leadership equips leaders from all backgrounds to thrive in their role. We help courageous leaders push past their own limitations to establish a positive work environment. If you want to see higher levels of employee engagement, loyalty, performance, and innovation, contact Front Line Leadership today.