When we use the word, courage, it normally conjures up the image of a lone, brave individual making an action of incredible heroic, fearless, boldness. Most of us would never dream or even be able to behave in this manner. Our own limitations hold us back.
In business, we need to have courage too.
“Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.”Sir Winston Churchill
Sometimes, we need to go beyond our own safe worlds and step out into the spotlight to do whatever needs to be done. We need to be a whistle-blower and expose some wrongdoing, or to distance ourselves from a popular project as it may harm the business, or stand up to the Board of Directors to request support for an unpopular project that you know needs to be done. All of these dilemmas demand courage.
Courage is the quality that distinguishes great leaders from excellent managers.
Courageous leaders take risks that go against the grain of their organizations. They make decisions with the potential for revolutionary change in their markets. Their boldness inspires their teams, energizes customers, and positions their companies as leaders in societal change.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.Steve Jobs
The dictionary definition of courage is “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.” Courageous leaders lead with principles — their True North — that guide them when pressure mounts. They don’t shirk bold actions because they fear failure. They don’t need external adulation, nor do they shrink from facing criticism.
Courage is neither an intellectual quality, nor can it be taught in the classroom. It can only be gained through multiple experiences involving personal risk-taking. Courage comes from the heart. As Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “The longest journey you will ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart.”
It takes bold decisions to build great global companies. If businesses are managed without courageous leadership, then R&D programs, product pipelines, investments in emerging markets, and employees’ commitment to the company’s mission all wither. These organizations can slip into malaise and may eventually fail, even if their leaders can move on to avoid being held accountable.
Courageous leadership is not just for business leaders. Politicians need to be brave and lead too.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’Eleanor Roosevelt
As the number of coronavirus cases kept climbing worldwide this past week, former United States President Barack Obama offered some simple advice for mayors and local leaders battling outbreaks in cities across the globe: “Speak the truth.”
“The biggest mistake any [of] us can make in these situations is to misinform,” Obama said during a virtual meeting organized by Bloomberg Philanthropies, “particularly when we’re requiring people to make sacrifices and take actions that might not be their natural inclination.”
Obama’s comments, addressed to local officials and members of response teams from more than 300 cities, come as millions of people worldwide remain confined indoors, their movements largely restricted by governments attempting to stem the spread of a virus that has no vaccine or scientifically proven treatment. With many feeling fearful and anxious while misinformation about the coronavirus continues running rampant on social media, Obama emphasized the power of truth.
There are different types of courage, ranging from physical strength and endurance to mental stamina and innovation. The list below is the six different ways in which we define courage. Which are most relevant to you?
- Feeling Fear Yet Choosing to Act
- Following Your Heart
- Persevering in the Face of Adversity
- Standing Up For What Is Right
- Expanding Your Horizons; Letting Go of the Familiar
- Facing Suffering With Dignity or Faith
Give it a try. Even if reacting with fear has been a life-long habit, you can change it. Take the mask off the monster and look it straight in the eye. You can even try laughing.
Oh, what a difference it makes.
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”Mark Twain
Biali Haas, S. (2018). Choose Courage Instead of Reacting in Fear. Psychology Today: Sussex Publishers, LLC. Retrieved on April 13, 2020, from, https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/prescriptions-life/201804/choose-courage-instead-reacting-in-fear
Chiu, A. (2020). ‘Speak the truth’: Obama says ‘biggest mistake’ mayors can make in coronavirus pandemic is to misinform the public. The Washington Post. Retrieved on April 13, 2020, from, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/10/obama-coronavirus-misinformation/
Greenberg, M. (2012). The Six Attributes of Courage. Psychology Today: Sussex Publishers, LLC. Retrieved on April 13, 2020, from, https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201208/the-six-attributes-courage
HBS Working Knowledge Contributor. (2017). Courage: The Defining Characteristic Of Great Leaders. Forbes. Retrieved on April 13, 2020, from, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbes-personal-shopper/2020/03/18/best-home-office-chairs/#cfd2d2c71e32
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies.
He is a business and technology consultant. A recent contract was with Wirepas from Tampere, Finland as the Director of Business Development. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 15 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.