How to Find the Courage to Lead

There’s plenty of boldness in leadership. But, sadly, there’s too little courage.

The greatest courage isn’t the courage to tell people what to do. It’s the courage to tell yourself what to do. It’s not the courage to attempt great things. It’s the courage to bring your best self to daily challenges and opportunities.

Lack of courage:

The deepest symptom of inauthentic leadership is the need to give advice apart from self-examination.

Cowards love telling people what to do and how to do it.

Leadership-cowardice is smug satisfaction with self, combined with dissatisfaction with others.

Fear fuels enthusiasm to point out faults in others.

A spirit of self-congratulation combined with unwillingness to acknowledge and explore your own faults is a sure indication of fear.

Another symptom of cowardice in leadership is the need to have all the answers. Cowardly leaders hide behind closed doors, avoid contact with people, and need constant affirmation because they don’t have all the answers.

The need for affirmation is the last symptom of fear in leadership. Don’t get me wrong. Healthy affirmation helps everyone. But the need for affirmation prevents you from bringing your best self.

Bravado in the face of criticism is cowardice in disguise. And those who pull back under criticism have lost themselves.

The path to courage:

Warren Bennis captured the challenge when he said, “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult.”

No one arrives at courage.

Courage comes in small doses. Each step forward moves you toward courage. But you always face fear again.

Courage is facing self-doubt and stepping forward. There’s hope if you acknowledge fear.

All you can do is bring your best self today. And then do the same tomorrow.

Where do leaders find courage to bring themselves to work?

What blocks authentic leadership?

How might you bring your best self today?

Books by Warren Bennis:

On Becoming a Leader

Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader

The Art and Adventure of Leadership: Understanding Failure, Resilience and Success