Courage In The Workplace

We are working in a complex and ever-changing business environment that can be challenging to operate in at times. People are unpredictable, projects are never-ending, deadlines are unrealistic and life continues to chip away at our resilience. At times, it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning, let alone lead a team or be a good human.

What we know though is that to be talented leaders we first need to find the courage to be talented self-leaders. We have to successfully lead ourselves, even during the difficult times, before we can expect anyone to walk with us.

How do we do that? This is something I have pondered for many years. I mean, what does it take to be a courageous self-leader? What adversities do we have to go through to be considered someone with courage? And does navigating through tough times in our personal lives help us to navigate through tough times in our professional capacity?

Learning From Our Adversities

I think we can all agree that there are gifts from the curve balls that life throws at us – personally and professionally. We never know it at the time because when we are in the thick of it, it is so hard to see out the other end, but once we look back and extract the lessons, it is then that we continue to grow our self-leadership qualities.

There is no doubt that while I was in the thick of some of my own adversities, I could never have imagined that anything positive could come of them, but they have actually taught me important business lessons.

From waking up one morning and not being able to walk; to being forced into a car in South Africa with an AK47 pointed at my head; having to make the final “goodbye and I love you” call to my husband as a life-threatening tsunami approached; and then the worst of all waking up in a burning building while I was on a volunteer mission because some men had thrown petrol bombs with the intention to burn us all alive; all of these adversities have helped shape my professional progress and success.

As leaders, rising out of tough times is one of the most important skills we can learn, because our ability to show courage in the face of business adversities is what allows us to adapt, evolve and keep moving forward.

Five Types of Courage

When we are given the opportunity to show courage at work, we are more likely to take on challenging projects, deal with change, step out of our comfort zones, exceed expectations, and do what is right.

Here are five different types of courage that we see in workplaces.

1. Physical Courage

This is the courage that most people think of when that word is used. It involves bravery and of course, for our first responders this is a skill that comes naturally, but for the rest of us, our workplaces rarely require physical courage.

2. Social Courage

This is when we are at risk of social exclusion, being unpopular, or rejected by our peers. Good leadership requires social courage because you often have to make decisions that not everyone agrees with.

3. Intellectual Courage

This type of courage means we are willing to think outside the box, challenge the norm, question the status quo and risk making mistakes. It is rare that anyone can rise into a position of leadership without this type of courage.

4. Moral Courage

This involves our values and beliefs and whether or not we are willing to stand up and take action for what we believe in, rather than just thinking about it. Actions speak a thousand words and those with moral courage are role models to us all.

5. Emotional Courage

This refers to our ability to embrace how we feel about things. It is our willingness to be vulnerable, to speak the truth and be proud of who we have become. In a world that historically admires stoicism, this move we are seeing towards emotional courage is a positive step.

Understanding these different types of courage helps us to fine-tune our leadership abilities.

When organisations create a sense of security that allows people to step into these different types of courage at work, everyone benefits because confidence, creativity, and innovation follows.