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Leading with Courage in an Environment of Fear

A great leader can manoeuvre any organisation towards success.

The question is then, what makes a leader great? What is it that distinguishes great leaders from average leaders?

Over many centuries, aspiring leaders everywhere have been searching for the precise elements that make up great leadership. However, the list of these elements can be a lengthy and contradictory one, which oftentimes leaves the aspiring leader bemused and disoriented. Fortunately, there is a clear starting point. One element that would always be included in my list is COURAGE - the virtue that strengthens all virtues.

Courage is often defined as the ‘mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.’ Aristotle defined courage as the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others. It is the quality that distinguishes the great leaders from the good leaders.

Leaders who lack courage may have low self-esteem. They often have difficulty speaking their truth in power because they are afraid to look bad in the eyes of their peers and external critics. They can also lack confidence in their own judgement and avoid making major decisions because they fear they may not be good enough, they may not belong or people will not like them. As a result, these leaders, and the people under their care, never grow - they will stagnate and will eventually wither.

Courageous leaders, on the other hand, are not afraid to take risks. They have a calm inner conviction about who they are and their ability to get the things they want and need in life. They feel in control of their lives and make things happen. They are confident in themselves, they know what they want and go after it.

Courageous leaders lead with strong principles that guide them in whatever direction they take. They don’t need the the praises and affirmation of others to feel good about themselves, nor do they shrink in the face of criticism. Their boldness engages their teams, energises customers, and positions their companies as strategic leader in the business world.

An article from the Harvard Business Review tells the story of Indra Noon, the CEO of PepsiCo, who led her organisation to success because of her courage:

When Indra was named CEO in 2006, she foresaw the coming shift among consumers, especially the millennial generation, to healthier foods and beverages. She immediately introduced PepsiCo’s strategy “Performance with Purpose,” that focuses on complementing the company’s core soft drink and snack business with healthy foods and beverages. In 2013, PepsiCo was challenged by activist Peltz to split the company, but Nooyi steadfastly refused. Instead, she restructured her leadership team to deliver strong near-term performance while continuing to invest in her transformation strategy. Nooyi’s arch-rival, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, decided instead to concentrate on sugar-based soft drinks while ignoring these obvious trends. As a result, Coca-Cola’s performance has consistently lagged PepsiCo’s. Since 2011, PepsiCo stock is up 70 percent, while Coca-Cola’s has only increased by 15 percent.

What about you? Are you a courageous leader?

You can demonstrate the courageous leadership that will bring success to your organisation?

Here are some tips to develop this important virtue:

1. Make a list of the things you’ve accomplished in your life; make a sincere effort to recapture the feelings you experienced when you achieved your goals. Identify the things you excel in, tap into the emotions associated with those strengths.

2. Examine the causes of your lack of courage. Determine and identify your fears.

3. Move on quickly from failures by seeing them as learning opportunities

4. Appreciate yourself. Envision yourself as smart, competent, articulate, poised, and admired

5. Practice being courageous

6. Develop your Emotional Intelligence

Remember this: great companies can only be built with bold decisions. Lead your organisation to success by developing the virtue of courage.

In the work I do to develop 21st Century Neuroleaders, courage is developed as a key pillar of Collaboration. Leading with courage engages your team, energises your customers, and positions your organisation as a leader in the business world.

If this short article has spoken to you in any way, contact me through my website so we can discuss what support you need in this area of your life and leadership journey.

Have a great week…you deserve it!

Cheers Grant

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