Many believe that courage is an essential attribute of great leaders, but the message is often confusing. According to Merriam Webster, the definition of courage is mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Courage doesn’t necessarily mean the absence of fear, but the ability to act despitefear. This is not without discomfort, but it does mean continuing to lead in the face of fear and discomfort.

Yet courage is much even more than this. Courage is leading with heart and according to ones values. Courage has its root in the French word, Coeur, meaning “heart.” Courage comes from the heart and includes, ‘en-courage’ or giving ‘en-courage – ment.’ Courageous leaders use their principles or values to guide decisions, including during difficult times. In other words, courage is maintaining your True North.

There are several components or unique characteristics to courageous leadership,

  • Courage requires stepping up as well as trying something new. Leaders forage a new path and inspire others to follow.
  • Being a great leader requires the courage to make decisions and take action, including at times when others disagree, of course always from the heart.
  • This doesn’t mean not listening to or considering the advice of others – that’s the ‘heart’ part too.

The Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “The longest journey you will ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart.”

Courage is also about trusting and having confidence in others. Brene Brown notes that courage is contagious. She states that, “…we have to cultivate a culture in which brave necessary or rewarded”. It’s about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.