Are you a courageous leader? What is a courageous leader? – I have thought about this a lot lately, as the need for them has grown exponentially in today’s environment. The following are characteristics and attitudes that I relate to courageous leadership, and I invite you to consider them with me.
Courageous leaders are visionary. They are not afraid to say: “I have a dream,” even when this dream looks like a phantasmagoric ideal that is currently hard to imagine. Deep down, they know that there is more than the present 3D reality that surrounds us, and they can feel the immense creative power in themselves and others. They are bold enough to stand for something that no one ever stood for, and to challenge the status quo.
Courageous leaders are innovative. Innovative leaders cannot exist without courage. It requires guts to go in a new direction. They experiment with new ways. They say new things. They risk being ridiculed for their views, their approaches, their perspectives. In some cases, their careers or financial funds may also be at stake, but they pursue new ideas and ways anyway.
Courageous leaders dare to self-discover to gain greater self-awareness. They don’t fear seeing aspects about themselves they may not like. They enjoy the process of self- inquiry. They don’t look away when they see a flaw in themselves. Much rather, they examine their shortcomings closely so they can self-improve. They question their own assumptions and put their biases to the test. Courageous leaders show interest in how their behavior is perceived in order to figure out if there’s a gap between their own perception of their behavior and others’ perception of it. They request feedback. They know that self-awareness is empowered vulnerability, and that greater self-knowledge allows them to grow and transform. And leaders who transform themselves, can transform the world.
Courageous leaders lead from a place of ethical integrity . They don’t lead for the money but for the impact they want to make. They are striving to stay in alignment with their purpose, ethical concepts, and their core values. When this is not possible in their current environment, they either use their role to course-correct the environment, or they move to a place where they can make a difference with their leadership competence.
Courageous leaders do not depend on validation by others. They are not afraid to say green when others say blue. They dare to be controversial. The only confirmation they look for is how their leadership serves those they lead, the vision they pursue, and society or humanity as a whole. Rather than worrying about what others think about them, they want to be able to look themselves in the mirror and say: “ I think highly of you because of your leadership.”
Courageous leaders use their leadership position or ability to be the voice of the voiceless, even when it is unpopular. They may represent the voiceless, but they never speak for them without figuring out first what those they speak for really have to say, even when the perspective of those they represent deviates from their own. They advocate, rather than patronizing.
Courageous leaders inspire through high-vibration energy. They pay attention to their own energy and cultivate a high vibration so they can encourage and inspire through it , rather than hiding behind a façade. They are aware that their energetic presence speaks beyond their words.
Courageous leaders act with a clear intention. They may change their minds, but they don’t constantly adapt their view depending on what favors them the most or what others say. They are transparent about their intention.
Courageous leaders are present with others. They have no need to put the biggest weight on themselves and their own interests. Instead, they focus on the people and causes they lead. They are purpose-driven, not self-interest-driven, which shows in their interactions with all stakeholders.
Courageous leaders are brave enough to admit when they make mistakes or need help. They know that they are not supposed to be perfect, and they have no issue with bringing in others to complement their own skills. Being aware of their shortcomings, they don’t cover them up, but rather deal with them.
Courageous leaders do not tolerate corruption. They don’t back down to corruption attempts; they don’t bow to lobbyists and they don’t compromise their integrity in exchange for material or financial compensation. They object systems that favor corruption. Corruption is just not an option for them, and they are fearless in the face of bribery attacks, and strong enough to resist its temptation, even when the corrupt path is clearly the easier one. They don’t swim with the tide just because it’s more convenient. They speak their truth, despite a different prevailing mainstream opinion.
Courageous leaders look the truth in the eye. They know that as leaders, it is their responsibility to thoroughly research important matters, consulting diverse sources of information. They are not deterred by the possible ugliness of their findings, and they don’t bury their heads in the sand, pretending that the evil they dug up does not exist. Rather, they ponder on ways to deal with it. Then they step forth fearlessly, take action, and connect with people who can strengthen their cause.
Courageous leaders are not afraid to recognize their limitless inner power. Because they have gone through a process of thorough self-discovery, they know about their inherent power, their infinite potential, and the value of it. They have also learned to tap into it and use it in the service of their teams, humanity, and the planet.
Courageous leaders are not afraid to share positional (external) power. They are unimpressed by hierarchies and titles, and they have no need to be authoritative. They don’t feel threatened by the thought of collaboration, delegation, or other people’s successes, and they favor partnerships rather than unequal relationships.
Courageous leaders allow others to shine. They celebrate other people’s greatness and genius, just like they recognize their own. They don’t need sunglasses when they stand next to brightly shining people. Their eyes love seeing brilliance in others and they encourage them to step into the spotlight with it.
Courageous leaders are not afraid to stand out. In my workshops, I often say: ‘Leaders don’t blend in; leaders stand out. And standing out requires courage.’ But what’s really essential for humanity in these times is having leaders who are intrepid enough to stand out by standing up against those at the top who may not have the best interest of humans at heart, even when this may mean that they put their lives on the line. In our history, we have a few very distinguished examples of visionary people, who took a leadership position to create positive change that went against the substance of an entire system. Some paid their lonely courage with their lives or long imprisonment, the idea of which is frightening for sure, but this has not deterred some courageous leaders of our times to play their part, and we need more of them.
Courageous leaders lead from the heart. Courage comes from the heart, while fear originates in the mind. In many languages, the words “heart” and “courage” have the same roots (coeur/courage, cuore/coraggio, coração/coragem, etc.) – for a good reason: The heart is where we most easily can find courage and bravery. Courageous leaders are warriors of the heart, and their leadership is characterized by compassion, understanding, and noble intentions.
Courageous leaders strive towards a new business consciousness, which is driven by partnership, evolution, inclusiveness, compassion, and love. Not old, outdated consciousness, which is still prevailing in many places and which is fueled by fear, threat and pain. Co-creation rather than competition. Connectedness and unity rather than separation. Peace and open-minded communication rather than war and conflict.
Courageous leaders have no need to defend antiquated structures and paradigms that keep the same groups in power positions and systematically exclude others. They look back to learn and forward to drive positive change.
Courageous leaders are not the same as confident leaders. The world has too many confident and over-confident leaders who are far from courageous or heart-centered. We don’t need more confident leaders. Courageous leaders are who we need to step forward in all areas, from corporate to communities to politics… now more than ever. Are you one of them?
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