8 Powerful Ways to Inspire Courage in Others
Leaders who don’t feel fear are oblivious to the challenges of leadership. Leadership of any consequence takes courage. Be afraid of leaders who aren’t afraid.
The past is the future, apart from the courage to act. Aristotle warned,
“You will never do anything in this world without courage”
Leadership goes beyond personal courage to inspiring courage in others.
- Acknowledge the fears of others. Courage doesn’t eliminate fear, it answers it. It takes courage to say, “I’m afraid.” Naming fear is the beginning to defeating it.
- Elevate courage by acknowledging your own fears. An occasional acknowledgement of your fear opens a window on your courage. Danger, too much acknowledgment makes others fearful.
- Prepare for what you fear. Are you fearful about your next presentation? Courage transforms fear into preparation. Cowards just give up.
- Focus on purpose. Establish powerful reasons for moving forward. Facing uncertainty without purpose makes chickens of us all.
Joe Tye on inspiring courage:
- Focus fear effectively. “If people are more afraid of the boss than they are of the competition, the competition is certain to win.”
- Give fear a name and it becomes just a problem; it’s easier to solve problems than it is to conquer fear.
- Create points of certainty. “People are not afraid of change, they are afraid of uncertainty…” During change, for example, highlight things that aren’t changing.
- “Lighten up and laugh – it is physiologically impossible to be frightened when you are laughing.”
Bonus: The surprising challenge of courageous leadership is finding the courage to let others lead.
Above all, courage in you has the power to inspire courage in others.
How do you face your fears?
How do you inspire courage in others?
My roles have included “disaster manager” my bosses most powerful empowerment was “I trust your judgment.” “I’ll stand behind your decisions.” it allowed me and my team to act decisively and actually opened doors for me to consult him as an advisor (rather than a boss). We accomplished a lot together.
Thanks Ken. You nailed an essential to inspiring courage, standing behind people. You remind me of a leader who said, “I’ll own any problem you bring to me. But, if it comes out and I find out that you knew but didn’t tell me, you’re fired.”
Good stuff Dan.
I face my fears in a plethora of ways!
Sometimes I am the windshield and sometimes the bug!
Mostly, I remember I am afraid because of the story I told myself about what is going on and I can change the story I am telling myself.
Next I remind myself 95% of what I worry and am fearful about never happens.
Next I ask myself if the absolute worst happens will it really kill me?
After I turn my mountains into molehills I take care of bness.
One other thing never fails, remember the Wizard of Oz!!! Real scary first meeting him, then go behind the screen and see he is a pretty ordinary guy just looked big a projected up and stuff. That is like what I do with my fears. Blow them up and stuff. Then process then back to right size.
I am too busy cleaning up my side of the street to try to bloat my ego thinking I am inspiring others.
That question kinda answers itself. If you think you are doing that, you ain’t!
Thanks Scott. Truth – most of our fears never happen. But, it’s those few that do that give me fits. 🙂
Me too!! Lol
Now let me share with you multiple examples of how I demonstrate my Humilty!!!
Keep those files in my brain next to how I inspire others files!!! Hehe
Take care Dan
Dual Code does a memory good!!
“Naming fear is the beginning to defeating it.” So true! And, when added to Scott’s observation that we tend to magnify the fear, it’s crucial to be able to shine the light on our concern. One of my favorite internal dialogs to my fears run amok is, “I see you and you don’t own me.”
Thanks Jennifer. I love that.. “I see you…” As I read your comment, I thought about the value of sharing our fears with those we trust. Sharing our fears is an act of courage in itself.
Powerful words — and true!
Your 4 points at the beginning are exactly on the mark, Dan. You seem to have lived through this.
As Deming said, one of the things we most need to do is to drive out fear. Fear should galvanize to action, not to paralysis (unless paralysis is the right action!)
Leaders need to acknowledge fear in themselves and others, focus on purpose, and plan together with the group how to get through the issue.
As a person responsible for leading technology in a startup, going places where “no man has ever gone before”, we’re often faced with difficult issues, the need to make decisions with imperfect information, and the real possibility that we may run out of money and/or time before commercial success. A good part of my job consists of looking far enough ahead to avoid getting trapped in a maze, planning for contingencies, listening deeply to people, and accompanying them through decisions and actions to get beyond the fear caused by uncertainty, then thanking and encouraging as appropriate.
It is very important that leaders share in the fearful situation, as well as the pain and the effort to get out of it. They should not take charge as heroes before admiring group members, nor should they consider fearful situations to be the problem of those reporting to them. Leaders should be in the thick of things, shouldering and sharing responsibility. People should always be able to count on their leader being with them.
David, the shepherd-who-became-king, wrote of such a leader in the 23rd Psalm from the point of view of a sheep. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”.
Thanks Marc. I got the feel from reading your comment that you are a person of experience. Thanks for sharing your journey of courage/fear. You illustrate the point that fear and courage live together. One always wins.
Yes, I too, understand fear. It can be as simple as fear before speaking to fear of failure to fear of falling short, to fear that a project will fail.. and so on and so on 🙂
Great leaders are courageous and move beyond their comfort zone. Weak leaders are comfortable and stay in their comfort zone.
Thanks Dan. I love a well turned expression!
Another addition to the issue of facing fear…Fear of the unknown is terrible, and can lead to panic.
Kids fear the monster under the bed until someone turns on the light and shows them it isn’t there. People with cancer fear the unknown until a medical professional gives them information so they can face the future squarely.
We had a daughter who was born with clubbed feet. The doctor who delivered her helped to reduce our anxiety about her future by assuring us that it could be corrected by casts and surgery. We were even more encouraged by a male nurse in the orthopedics ward who assured us, “She will not only walk – she will dance”. He was right.
Some people hoard information for power. That is manipulative and wrong.
Some do not inform anxious people for fear of upsetting them. For example, a boss may not want to share the fact that the company is having financial difficulties, or a doctor may not want to tell a patient the symptoms they will face in their terminal illness. In my experience, such behavior is not helpful. Providing information in a loving way, and with empathy, helps people to face their fears and move forwards.
Kapow!! Thanks Marc.
I have to tell you that when our kids were afraid of the monster under the bed, I believed them. I reached under the bed and wrestled that monster. I dragged him to the bathroom and flushed him down the toilet. Then I went back and asked if there were anymore monsters. hahaha… I guess that’s an example of accepting people’s fears.
Yo Marc, decades of experience listening to people’s fears.
Boils down to only two. Then down to one!!! anybody can handle one little made up illusion, right? Get a cool way to deal with one little imaginary worry….Bingo, fear not that big a deal.
Fear trims down to only two, then the dealio is a mental focus on only one of them.
One, fear I am going to lose something I decided I have to have to survive. I decided it, not God, oops!!!! Playing God tricky business, I do not suggest it for mental midgets.
Two, fear not getting something I had told myself I MUST have to survive. Oops trouble Will Robinson playing God again, whoops!!!!
Seems most of my troubles come from me pursuing my will not focusing on my Higher Powers will for me…imagine that!!! Beautiful explanation of this in the AA Big Book chapter 5 page 62!
Both faulty evidence appearing real.
It is all mental smoke and mirrors.
Once a person figured these things out for themselves, I mean at a heart, head and gut level THEN they can share the ONLY thing they can offer that has any merit and lasting values I others, their own experience.
Hey isn’t it amazing how much online stuff is now point and click? Amazing
Anyone fearing going online just had not seen recently how point and click this stuff has gotten.
Take care, good luck with that faulty evidence appearing real thingy!! Most people do not really want to let go of their illusions cause they fear what will be left staring them in the face…..them!!
This is great at highlighting the need for a strong foundation. By building upon the basics, uncertainty can be reduced.
Thanks Alex. Reduce uncertainty where you can.
Admitting fears (appropriately!) and modeling courage is powerful!
Sensing/discovering where fear is arising in a co-worker or subordinate is so critical. As a leader, I find it so easy to get consumed in “my world” and, occasionally, stop noticing what’s happening those I lead. Pay attention…take the time to ask good questions…listen…really listen!
Thanks Steve. I’m with you. It’s very easy to focus inward and not realize what’s going on in others. One of the core leadership shifts is from “I” to “We.”
“An occasional acknowledgement of your fear opens a window on your courage.”
My tagline for this week! Opening the window for your courage to fall out!
So timely and appropriate! Very much needed! And you’re right, it is not change, I ever fear… It is the uncertainty. And though I ask God everyday to “Grant me the courage to accept the things, I cannot change, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference, ” with Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” written as a reminder, on almost everything in my line of sight, I lose my courage, at least once a day, to uncertain fear. (Things that, most likely, will never happen.). I will also be the first to admit… I am really good, or so I think, at helping a friend, acquaintance, stranger, or family member, with help from Above, to find quick, simple solutions to almost anything, any task, any problem…. And if I do not have an answer, I do not mind saying, “Wow, I see how concerned you are, and I have not the foggiest answer for you, BUT I can do some research, and I will get back to you. Until then, if you just need to tell me something else, you think of anything else, shoot me a text or email. You might already have the answer, but I will not leave you hanging. We will get you an answer.” or “I’m not sure what you should do; what have you tried so far? If you do not want to tell me more, I will still see what I can find out for you, at the least, perhaps I can point you in the right direction.” And I will, because I believe our natural inclination to help, grows from the feeling, the reward, the pleasure, of easing the burden for another. When someone comes to you with a problem, the ability to say, “Looks like you got a lot on your plate. I cannot imagine how you feel, but I can empathize with your fear. We’ve all been there, and maybe we can find you a solution, with a fresh set of eyes.” SO… here is the catch 22… MY catch 22… I am horrible at doing the same, with my own problem. It could be the very same problem, fear, or matter where courage is needed to make me say to myself, “Hey you, you got a problem. Admit you are scared, admit you’ve most likely over-thought the most simple solution, and you need a fresh set of eyes and ears to sort out this theoretical maze, you’ve created for yourself. You need someone, a trusted someone, who is not afraid, who can associate with your fear, and walk you through this, step by step… That is, until you get your bearings back.” Perhaps effectivenessactivator summed it up best, when he said, “Sometimes I’m the windshield, and sometimes the bug.”
I learned, at a very young age, I saw everything from the outside in, inside out, end to beginning, and 10 steps too far ahead, that is, whichever way, most everyone else was not looking at a given situation. This is not a bad thing, when you are a child, when you are learning, but as an adult, leader, parent, or team member, acclimating your point-of-view, is imperative, specifically when fear creeps in. When you’ve prayed for guidance, and you still find yourself at a loss, its part of His plan. “Ok, easier said than done, especially when breaking everything down is really simple, but you are at a loss of where to start.” Again, I owe my daughter, for teaching me the greatest lessons in patience, humility, tolerance, and courage. Afterall, we take on “the monster under the bed” for our children, because we have a duty and responsibility to be couragous, to teach them to handle fear, and hold their hands when they triumph.
So why is it so hard, when the fear is our own? I agree with Dan, as well as everyone else, that is, we all have our own, “Monster under the bed,” and finding the courage to allow others to help us lead, is a challenge…. Especiall,y if you’re one of those people, who often look at very complex problems, assume everyone else/someone else in the world has obviously looked at it from your perspective, tried your solution, else, problem solved, and then wonder when it comes to your own, “so why is it, I cannot wrap my hands around this one?”
Very well put together. Thanks for that! I’ll add one of my approaches specifically on adressing the fear of failure:
I lead a team of software developers, and in my opinion, I need them to be open and ready to tackle problems with sometimes risky approaches. If they fear that they will get a beating for trying something bold that doesn’t work, then they tend to settle for more common solutions which does often mean for less effective ones. What I tell them then is: “If you do succeed, it is your accomplishment, if you fail, it is my mistake.” That also includes implicitely my view on leadership: All a leader has to do is enable his team to do their job and be a shield between them and outside stakeholders (clients or executives).
How do you face your fears?
One way I face my fear is by deep breathing exercises. I pay attention to my heartrate and my breaths, usually focusing on a goal or what I want to happen – i.e., the best possible outcome. I also remind myself that most of my previous failures have been unintentional mistakes I made by not thinking through them, where fear didn’t kick in. So the fact I’m seeking courage means I’m historically less likely to be making a mistake. Knowing I’m trying to do the right thing also helps feel more courageous about it.
How do you inspire courage in others?
I enjoy inspiring others to take courageous risks. One way I do this at work is by asking then if they’re comfortable presenting their work in front of a client. I help them to make sure everything is in great shape and we practice the presentation together, but I rarely interject unless it’s to let them know they’re doing great. I recognize it’s probably not how I would have written or said something but it’s not about me. I let them know that if the client doesn’t like something, or has a question they can’t answer, then I will be there to defend the work or answer/deflect the question. I act as “back up” or a “safety net” and that helps the team member feel more comfortable facing forward with courage.
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