How to Become a Courageous Leader
We all know that effective leadership is needed in the workplace to succeed. However, let’s take a closer look at the art of leadership. What does it truly take for a leader to be successful and effective? How do leaders approach difficult situations and find the inner strength to lead their teams to success? The answer is courage.
What is Courage?
Courage can take place in various forms – from being the first one to speak up in a meeting to thinking of a new solution when presented with a problem to admitting when you do not see the situation like others. While courage has a broad definition, it is ultimately not allowing your emotions to get the best of you and persevering through your feelings with actions. As Susan Jeffers says, we must feel the fear and do it anyways.
When courage is combined with leadership, it produces a powerful combination. Courageous leaders are able to endure through difficult situations and grow from their experience. As a result, their growth mindset will trickle down to their team members, thus creating a positive team environment.
At EI Experience, we believe that courageous leadership stems from emotional intelligence. When leaders are vulnerable and express their true emotions, it will directly benefit the team and organization. Team members will be encouraged to share their own feelings and offer support to their leaders, creating a culture of transparency and collaboration. Why Emotions Matter states that when leaders ask for feedback about their leadership, it will shape the leader’s professional development – making them more decisive and successful. The truth is, leadership is not a solo mission, unless you create it that way. Courageous leaders welcome their team members onboard and navigate through the journey together.
Your Key to Courageous Leadership
As mentioned above, an essential aspect to mastering courageous leadership is to develop your emotional intelligence competencies. Not only will your emotional intelligence skills contribute to a greater understanding and management of your emotions, it will also propel you to make better decisions and manage stress more effectively. Below are a few of the emotional intelligence competencies that will help you become a more courageous leader.
Assertiveness is the act of communicating your beliefs and thoughts openly in a respectful and non-offensive manner. Assertiveness plays an important role in courageous leadership, as leaders must voice out their opinions, regardless of what others may think or say. Leaders who are high in assertiveness are able to stand by their beliefs and present new ideas without a fear of judgement; they are okay standing on their own if their ideas are unpopular. Assertive leaders do not impose their ideas and want everyone to follow suit; assertiveness is not about getting everyone to agree with you, but voicing your opinions and declaring your stance. Courageous and assertive leaders are also comfortable with welcoming in opposing viewpoints.
For example, speaking up to present a new, risky idea to your team members is an act of practicing assertiveness and courageous leadership. It can be nerve wracking to present a brand new idea, especially if it has never been done before. Choosing to speak up instead of staying silent is an act of courage. By presenting this idea, you have voiced your ideas out loud to the team, and are welcoming feedback.
Interpersonal Relationships is a competency focused on developing strong and mutually beneficial relationships. In the workplace, it is crucial for leaders to have healthy, supportive relationships with their team members. As a result, their team members will feel cared for, creating a supportive team culture. An example of how a leader can demonstrate they care about their team is to stand up for their teammate in times of adversity. Swooping in to display support for your team member will not only deepen your relationship with each other, but will make your team member feel valued.
It is also critical for leaders to develop trust amongst their teams in their relationships with their staff. And gaining trust takes time. So, how do you build trust? You always actively listen to your team’s viewpoints, you respect your employees’ work boundaries, you resolve conflicts in healthy ways, you are dependable for them, you care and show consideration of their needs, and you always are consistent with your words and actions. If trust is built, you both can have the courage to disagree respectfully with each other, offering a different way forward than previously considered. If you have a trusting relationship, where you can challenge each other’s ideas, you allow more innovative ideas to emerge.
Emotional expression is the ability to showcase your emotions, both verbally and non-verbally. Expressing emotions (especially those perceived as difficult or negative) can be a great act of courage, especially if one does not openly share their emotions. However, when leaders begin to truly show the emotions they are feeling, the workplace becomes more open and transparent. For instance, a leader who admits that their project has failed, but shares the lessons they learned in the process is a prime example of emotional expression, vulnerability, and courageous leadership.
In terms of emotional expression, the leader is acknowledging their emotions of disappointment associated with the project failing. In addition, admitting that a project has failed may not be an easy pill to swallow, but it spreads the message that perfection does not exist and that mistakes do occur in the workplace. Lastly, teaching the lessons learned from the process of a failed project is an act of courageous leadership. Although the project outcome may have not been the way the leader originally envisioned, being able to find lessons from their experience showcases that their leader wants the best for their team; they want their team to learn from their experience and not make the same mistakes as they did.
Optimism is keeping a positive outlook despite setbacks. Optimism also includes looking for new opportunities when faced with roadblocks. Courageous leaders who are high in optimism have a growth mindset. A growth mindset enables individuals to enjoy challenges, continuously learn, and see potential to develop new skills. In contrast, individuals with a fixed mindset possess low optimism as they believe things will stay the same and struggle to pivot their outlook. To illustrate, let’s use the example of COVID-19.
COVID-19 forced businesses to change their business model and practices to adapt to the changes imposed by the global pandemic. A courageous leader with a growth mindset will recognize this as a learning opportunity and a chance to pivot; despite the changes, this will be a great opportunity for the team to develop their adaptability and work together to find a solution that works best for them, given the current situation. However, a leader with a fixed mindset will see the situation in a different light; they will view the circumstances as something they cannot change due to the heavy weight of the world-wide issues, and believe their team can’t handle it.
Unlock Courageous Leadership with Your EQ Competencies
Your emotional intelligence competencies will guide you to the path of courageous leadership. By becoming a courageous leader, you will be able to embrace difficult situations with a growth mindset and persevere through any challenge that comes your way.
Becoming a courageous leader is more crucial than ever to create a culture that propels your team forward. Want to learn more about how to enhance your leadership repertoire? Check out our Values Based Leadership Workshop, available in live or virtual delivery. For more, you can read our blog, The Art of Authentic Leadership, to learn the importance of embodying the message that it is OK to be human in the workplace.
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