What is courageous leadership?

Discover the key traits that you need
to lead a team with courage

Courageous leadership is what every employee hopes for and what every company needs. A courageous leader guides their staff without stamping out creativity, they lead by example, and they stand at the helm of the company, giving everyone behind them confidence to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

The three buckets of courage

There are three main types of courage when it comes to courageous leadership in the workplace:

  • Try courage: Try courage is the courage required to take the first step in something. If you are doing something for the first time, that takes courage. You might fail, you might get it wrong, or you might do something completely incredible.
  • Trust courage: This is the type of courage required to relinquish control. As a leader, you will need this courage in order to delegate to your employees, to give over control to staff, and to show your team that you trust them. This type of trust not only shows your staff that you trust them, but also that they can trust you not to micromanage their work.
  • Tell courage: Tell courage is the courage you need to speak openly and with conviction about your beliefs and ideas. Often, doing this can be very scary, especially in a business setting. Courageous leadership means providing your team with positive and constructive feedback on a regular basis, even if what you have to say is going to make someone feel uncomfortable.

Leadership courage

Using those three buckets of courage, you can take precise actions that will make you a stronger leader for yourself, your team, and your business.

Claim your courage

The first thing you have to do is decide that you are going to be a courageous leader, no matter what. You have to be willing to climb over obstacles, to do what’s difficult, and to keep doing that every day. A courageous leader is someone who constantly asks themselves if they are being courageous enough. Courage is a muscle that must be strengthened day by day and choice by choice.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Courageous leaders are people who are able to push through uncomfortable situations. They are willing to make difficult decisions and do not back down when things get too hard.

Reveal vulnerability

Revealing that you are vulnerable to your employees lets them see that you are human, just like them. You make mistakes and clean up after them. You understand what it’s like to be in their shoes and you want to show that you aren’t just a massive ego.

Confront reality head-on

Strong leadership means fully understanding the state of your company. If you don’t completely understand what’s wrong and aren’t willing to admit that there needs to be change, then you face the possibility of losing good staff members and maybe even losing your business entirely.

Seek feedback and actually listen

Unfiltered feedback is often difficult to hear, but accepting it is one of the best things you can do for your business. Having your employees give their feedback not only allows you to better understand your company, but it also empowers them to share their thoughts and ideas.

You don’t need to have all the answers. A courageous leader lets go of their ego and encourages guidance and suggestions from their employees.

If you encourage constructive disagreement and healthy debate over ideas, you will reinforce the strength of your team and show them that you value their opinions. Allow employees to give feedback not only on your ideas, but the ideas and tasks that the entire team is working on. Encourage invention, creativity, and risk-taking.

Say what needs to be said

Real conversations are difficult to have, especially if there is conflict involved. As a leader, you need to have the courage to deal with conflict and face issues as they arise. You have to be ready to be unpopular and know that what you are doing is best for the business and therefore your livelihood. Letting these things fester or brushing them under the rug will only come back to cause larger problems later down the line.

Take action on performance issues

Confronting people is hard. That’s why most leaders don’t. The problem comes when you ignore these performance issues for too long. Underperforming or toxic employees can quickly become a threat to your team and your company. You cannot be afraid to reassign someone to another task or role or to fire them entirely. By taking action as soon as performance issues arise, you are helping yourself, your other employees, and your company.

Communicate openly and often

Keep the lines of communication open between you and your staff, even when you don’t know the answers. Courageous leaders do not hide behind their computers. They don’t use industry jargon or avoid answering questions. They use straight talk. They aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t know.” They communicate openly and honestly with their team.

Courageous leaders are open with their information. They don’t hoard ideas. They create open lines of communication at all levels of their business.

Give credit to others

Courageous leaders don’t seek praise from everyone around them. Instead, they offer praise to those who deserve it. They let their employees know when they’ve done a good job. They don’t need to take the credit for the work that is done by their team because they know it wasn’t their work in the first place. A good leader takes more than their share of blame and less than their fair share of credit.

Hold yourself accountable

If you expect your employees to perform and deliver on their commitments, then you have to do the same. You must hold yourself accountable and be a role model for your employees to emulate.

Delegate to your employees

Courageous leaders have confidence in their staff. They empower them by delegating responsibility. This also means that you need to accept their mistakes. Create a work environment where employees don’t fear making errors. When errors are made, show everyone how they can learn from them too.

Admit when you’ve made a mistake

Remove ego and pride from your leadership style. Own up to your errors so that you can correct them. Demonstrate to your staff that you are strong enough to continue leading and turn errors into learning opportunities.

Stand behind your employees

If you know you are capable of mistakes, you must accept and stand behind your team even when they’ve made a mistake. Build a team where they know that they are trusted and that if something goes wrong, you’ll be in their corner.

Change direction when required

Businesses of all sizes need to be able to change direction on short notice. When you are faced with the need to change, you need to be courageous about taking the next step. You will be leading a workforce into unchartered territory, and you need to have the confidence to guide them.

Weak leaders will doubt their choices, they will fear change, and they will worry. Eventually, their employees will see this. If you cannot show your employees that you are fully behind your own changes, how can they get behind them?

Establish higher standards

Courageous leaders establish higher standards for themselves and for their staff. As a leader, you need to set up personal standards for yourself to reach your full potential. By demonstrating this to your employees, you allow them to reach their full potential too.

Showcase your talents

While you want to make sure that you leave your ego at the door, showcasing your ability is an important factor in becoming a courageous leader. Employees want to know they are working with someone who is competent and capable of getting the job done.

Showcasing your talents to your team energizes the workplace. It shows people that they can trust in you and your work. It allows people to learn from your example and therefore be better at their roles as well.

Remove yourself from bad situations

Sometimes, the most courageous thing a leader can do is to leave a toxic work environment. If you have done all that you can to lead a company to a better place, but still no one follows, it may be time to take your expertise elsewhere. Knowing when it’s time to move on when you have reached your highest potential at your current job, and actually taking action, is an incredibly courageous act.

Courageous leadership sets the stage for progress and confidence. Use the above tips to show your team and the world what you’re made of.

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