Why Leaders Need Courage

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” – Winston Churchill 

The Roman historian Tacitus once said, “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” Today we might translate that to something like “always playing it safe makes it much harder to succeed.” 

Leaders need courage to make decisions that followers won’t make. They need courage not to just steer the ship but to set it’s course, sometimes heading into completely uncharted territory. Leaders need courage to stand on principle when non-leaders will sacrifice those principles in order to compromise. Leaders need courage to do what’s right, not just what’s popular.

Leaders need courage to take risks.

Here is an interesting thought. Those who have the courage to take risks and those who don’t experience the same amount of fear in their life. It’s just that a leader understands that courage is not the lack of fear, it is doing what they are afraid to do.

Everyone experiences and is held back by fear from time to time. Leaders find a way to overcome their fear and more forward more times than not.

When someone shows courage it encourages people but when a leader shows courage it inspires people. It inspires people to commit to the leader and that’s a very good thing. If your people see you always doing what’s safe they will follow that lead, they will always play it safe too and when they do growth is stopped dead in it’s tracks.

You probably won’t like this but I’m going to write it anyway….if you never feel fear then it’s likely you have retreated so far into your comfort zone that you’ve stopped growing. That almost certainly means that you’ve stopped leading too.

If you haven’t experienced fear in a while then now is the time. Go out and do something, anything worthwhile, that tests your courage just for the sake of growing in courage. It doesn’t matter what you do so long as you face a genuine fear. 

If you call yourself a leader and you want your people to grow then you had better be growing too. Growth requires change and change often means risk. Consistently successful leaders have the courage to accept those risks in order to grow.

Do you have the courage to succeed as a leader?

Leading With Communication

You won’t find too many excellent leaders who are poor communicators. Some are better than others when presenting in front of large groups and some are better in one-on-one situations but overall, excellent leadership requires effective communication.

Effective communication means speaking in such a way that what you’re saying is crystal clear, easy to understand and hard to forget. Truly effective communicators accept 100% responsibility for the clarity of their message. They don’t blame others for misunderstandings.

Just so we’re all on the same page here I want to make it clear that I’m talking about face-to-face communication. The verbal kind, you know, like speaking with people.

Some leaders believe they can use technology as a substitute for personal communication. They blog, use their organization’s intranet, newsletters, etc. That’s all good because it helps support a message and sometimes repetition is required. But it’s a mistake to think those tools will ever take the place of face-to-face personal communication. 

There is no media that can communicate a leader’s intensity and passion as well as personal, human contact. When a leader exits the relatively safe confines of their office to personally speak with members of their team it automatically adds weight to whatever it is they are saying.

Leaders who are good communicators speak with absolute clarity, they limit the use of buzzwords, jargon and corporate-speak. Their actions match their words, if they say they will do it, then they do it. That consistency adds significance to every statement they make.

It is important for a leader to be an effective communicator when speaking to large groups but it’s vital for leaders to be effective when speaking one-on-one.

So, excellent leaders speak well but….Authentic Servant Leaders speak well AND listen well. They know that speaking is only part of communicating; effective communication is a two-way street and if you never stop to listen you are not communicating well, no matter how good of a speaker you might be. 

Most people merely listen to respond, Authentic Servant Leaders listen to understand. They linger on the words being spoken until they understand the intent of the speaker. If they are not certain they fully understand what was said they ask for clarification. They don’t guess and they don’t assume, they ask.

The very best communicators are incredible listeners. It seems that by truly, completely listening to what other people are saying they always know just what to say in return and exactly how to say it. 

Perhaps the true secret to speaking well is listening even better!