The Key to Great Leadership Is Courage

Superhero Team with Capes Graphic

The key to great leadership is courage, especially now, in these times of uncertainty and change.  

When you think of having courage – what’s the first image that comes to mind? A superhero in the power stance, cape flowing? A mother fighting for her child’s welfare? A person putting themselves at risk to save someone else? How about facing an employee — or a board — to navigate a difficult issue… or truly listening when your team’s opinions are different than yours? They all require courage. Because courage comes in many shapes and forms. 

The pandemic has advanced this to a whole new level. It led to creating new practices and policy on the fly, new needs to work around like childcare, health care and a host of distractions and emotions. 

Now more than ever, courage is needed in leadership. Let’s look at five specific kinds of that courage. 

1. Leadership Courage

There are business goals, deadlines and budgets to meet, using daily processes and systems, while striving for exceptional client and market communications. Add that those have to be accomplished while managing people’s new needs, losing some to layoffs or FOMO, handling unexpected losses (or profits) that are way off projections, almost all of it juggled via a virtual environment. Leadership courage is navigating those waters while communicating clear expectations, trusting enough to delegate, holding people accountable, and working with any performance issues so they can rise to their potential. It also means letting someone go (even if they are brilliant) because it’s mucking with company culture. Courage is doing what is right for business, morale and harmony, even if it may be tough to do.

2. Social Courage 

This is about what you uniquely bring to the table, being brave enough to understand the power of your authentic voice, and knowing when to express it – and when not to.   What you have to offer may be a risk to put out there but the upside is it could be a game changer! Social courage is not just being bold, but the art of knowing when and how to go there. Done with a mixture of confidence and openness to feedback, the value you bring will stand out. 

3. Intellectual Courage

There is a lot of reward in this brand of courage, which presents as being open minded to others ideas, as well as thinking ourselves out of our own boxes. Here we step out of our comfort zone, healthfully question, work with others, and even become willing to blunder in service of solutions!  It can be tough to do when there is such pressure to be the hero or always right, but the truly heroic path is open discourse for the greater good, regardless of differences. Intellectual courage wins respect and creates trust and safety. 

4. Moral Courage

Your integrity is the fuel for this kind of courage. It’s about the ability to do what’s right, even when it may produce pushback or judgement.  To say what you mean, and more importantly, act on what you know in your gut is gratifying and lights the way for others to do the same. The world needs it now too. If your work aligns with your inner compass, values and ethics, you will have a true and fulfilling sense of purpose which serves the highest and best of all involved. Win/win. 

5. Emotional Courage

This year has honed our emotional courage, even if we didn’t realize it. Overnight we were forced to tolerate total upheaval and the unknown — and take the next steps anyway, no matter what we may be feeling. Those emotions are utilized as we go. We need this courage because the landscape of our lives, especially at work, are not returning to what it was. It takes courage to adopt new practices, sort and make the best of the feelings it brings up and dive back in.  Even if you put everything into it and experience some failures or end up with a different outcome than you had planned, you have not lost — you have led by example. 

The key to great leadership is courage

When leaders make a conscious effort to identify which types of courage they are good at and which they need to build, they not only grow more at ease and empowered in their role but become an invaluable contributor to every individual, team, client and company they interact with.  

As you read over these types of courage ask yourself: Which do I already do well? What stood out to polish as I strive to lead others? 

Once you find what you resonate with, it’s about how you’ll step up. If you want to discuss these forms of courage, or working with them to make your leadership shine, I am more than happy to help. Let’s connect! 

Becoming aware of these kinds of courage will create a shift in your perspective. You may find yourself operating a little (or a lot) differently with both challenges and people. The benefits you will see in time will confirm that you indeed have that essential courage.

And you won’t even need a cape!

How To Listen To Your Gut

How To Listen To Your Gut

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘It takes guts’ or have been asked: ‘‘What does your gut tell you?” But do you know how to listen to your gut? What is the gut exactly? How do you distinguish what messages come from your gut vs. your mind? If you have ever felt pings from your body at key moments, or had a strong feeling about a situation or person, you have been utilizing signals from what experts are now calling Gut Intelligence (GQ).

"Every single person has Gut Intelligence—intuition. It’s innate, and is just about whether we tap into it or not."

We know of our IQ: our intelligence, education, and training. We rely on it, and put a lot of effort into improving it, in ourselves and in our children. In the last two decades,  value has been placed on our Emotional Intelligence (EQ) — the ability to empathize or understand the needs of others. EQ, (or Heart Intelligence) has begun to reach beyond the obvious social rewards to its application in business, with clients and our audience. 

Today there is much scientific evidence emerging that we have a third “brain,” stemming from the gut, or the enteric nervous system… and it is being called Gut Intelligence (GQ). 

In literal terms, your gut is the pathway from your esophagus through your digestive system, but did you know that it’s got more neurons to fire communications through your body than your brain has?  Besides it’s important work in your digestive system, it is also your inner alarm system – the place your fight or flight triggers come from!  While the brain is busy being distracted by all kinds of data, in a dangerous situation, the gut kicks in. It processes information far faster, releasing signals through the body to the brain, all focused on protecting you!

Jay Pasricha, M.D., director at Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, said in a recent post, “The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results.” In a word, it’s instinct. We’ve evolved out of primal days when we needed those skills to stay alive, except for extreme circumstances in modern life like avoiding a car accident. Yet those signals are still in top working order and can now be incredibly empowering to you in your work life. 

Being gutsy has positive connotations, but hints that it’s the quality of a maverick, not the average person. The truth is, every single person has Gut Intelligence. It’s innate, and is just about whether we tap into it or or not. 

It can be hard for those in leadership to put much faith in their intuitive instincts over stats, trends, and deadlines. But it’s as viable a skill as any other you’ve honed. One that out pictures as courage, and can heighten the success of any endeavor, professional or personal. You won’t abandon your data, systems, or protocols by adding your intuition… you enhance it! 

We know those times we’ve ignored our body’s hints and clues. So if your gut  senses and communicates critical things your head may not, how can you become aware of that and trust it? And how do you know when to use your instinct or just note it and wait?

If you want to learn how to listen to your gut and develop trust in your judgement calls, I’m here to help. Let’s talk!

This is the second of a three part series on Intelligence. Read the first, The Role of Heart Intelligence in Leadership, and bookmark this blog to return for the third installation next month!  Even better, sign up to my newsletter for my latest blog posts, inspiring hand-picked resources, and to be the first to hear of my upcoming workshops and coaching opportunities.