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Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage
– Anais Nin
Last week I had the good fortune to attend a truly inspiring business forum about unleashing your potential. It was one of those forums that left you not only feeling encouraged and challenged but more importantly better equipped to face the leadership landscape in both our personal careers and our businesses.
In amongst all of the learning there was one theme that seemed to underpin many of the speaker’s presentations – courage. Courage to not only step up to the challenge or think more creatively, but more critically to step out of the way of ourselves.[vcex_spacing size=”20px”][vc_row bg_style=”stretch” parallax_style=”fixed-repeat” parallax_direction=”up” parallax_speed=”0.5″ video_bg_overlay=”none”]When facing big decisions, new challenges or a changed environment, the saying ‘we are our own worst enemies’ often rings true for many of us. At the heart of it is fear – fear of failure, fear of what others think, fear of not being good enough. The expectations, limitations and fears that circle in our minds so often stop us maximising not only our current opportunity but also our true capability.
Changing career paths, taking on a bigger or more diverse role, proposing new ways of doing business, voicing an opinion that is not shared by the consensus or standing up publicly to share your views all requires a high degree of internal strength, conviction and courage. For many of us it means shaking off the age-old thinking that the best way to succeed is to keep your head down, fly under the radar, play it safe and don’t make too much noise.
How ironic is it that what we want from our leaders is almost the exact opposite. We want and expect our leaders to stand up and voice opinions, propose new ideas, create new environments and generate high levels of engagement. We want them to stand behind what we believe to be the right decision and tell us why. Courage is an inherent trait amongst great leaders and it is why we admire them so much.
The good news is that courage isn’t just available for a select few but for all of us. It isn’t so much a skill but a decision. It is the decision and ability to move ahead in the presence of fear and not as many say in the absence of fear. It’s a mindset and it can be learnt.
So how do we overcome our fears and learn to live and lead with greater courage? In between many useful reminders, tips and strategies last week, there were a few that stood out that I believe we should strive to embrace:
- Create an environment that supports courage and learning
Creating a safe and supportive environment is critical to developing courage.
Sacha Coburn who presented at the forum about being ‘Fearless and Free’ shared a great analogy about a child learning to walk. Picture the environment in which a child learns to do this – they are invariably surrounded by people that are all enthusiastically cheering every effort made to stand up and walk. Real dangers are removed and risks to ‘step out’ are actively encouraged. Wild cheering and delight is taken with every step – not every time they fall over. The observers aren’t saying ‘well you’ve fallen over three times now, we better seek some professional help’; instead they are saying ‘up you get, have another go, you’ll be okay’!
Surround yourself with other courageous thinkers, doers and advocates.
- Note who you are listening too
So often when we are driving significant change or introducing new concepts and ideas, the critics appear to come from nowhere and have the loudest voices. Knowing who your key influencers and advocates are is critical to building effective frameworks of support. Your trusted advisors will be able to offer insight, constructive feedback and advice to help you not only maintain courage but also influence.
- Gain some perspective
Ask yourself ‘what is the worst thing that can happen?’ If it turns out that all it is that your idea / comment / view is rejected you will invariably be remembered as someone who was at least prepared to offer a contribution.
It is part of human nature to want to fit in, to be accepted and liked. Let’s face it no one goes out of his or her way to not fit in. However when we risk our own contribution for fear of not fitting in, it is often the disappointment in ourselves that remains long after the situation has ended.
- Lose the perfectionist tag
Perfectionism is the equivalent of paralysis. It creates unwarranted stress, crushes creativity, prevents productivity and ultimately limits profitability.
It often also prevents true connections with others around us being formed. Openness and honesty about our own journey and lessons learned allows for a greater level of authenticity and engagement with those around us.
- Be assured that the fire will come – Be ready for it
You can be guaranteed that when you attempt something new, there will be challenges and hurdles to overcome. They may come in the form of time, expense or people – regardless or their form they will exist.
When we know that they are part of the experience, they lose their power to hurt us personally, but instead become merely a part of the problem solving process.
Confidence is infectious. When you surround yourself with other like-minded and courageous individuals it not only helps you overcome your doubts and lingering fears but also helps you impart confidence to those that you are looking to influence.
It takes courage to challenge the norm, to make a tough decision, to answer the critics, to stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves, to not allow failures and disappointments deter you from your course, to be vulnerable and allow others the space to also be vulnerable. It takes courage to lead both your teams and businesses through periods of great uncertainty and change and remain true to your path.
Leaders who consistently demonstrate courage will stand apart from the masses and earn the trust and respect of those that they lead. Courage is what we will all be remembered for – the decisions we make or don’t make.
What will be your decision today?
Margot – The Career Diplomat [vcex_divider style=”solid” icon_color=”#000000″ icon_size=”14px” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”][vc_single_image image=”126″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”]If you would like to discuss ways to maximise your personal or business potential, please contact Margot directly on firstname.lastname@example.org or +61 3 9866 3842.[vcex_divider style=”solid” icon_color=”#000000″ icon_size=”14px” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”][vc_single_image image=”88″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none” link=”http://talentinsight.us3.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=961a17dac8287c94458c7983d&id=f81e0aac65″]