Courage to Become a Leader
You begin with a dream, but the real issue is courage – courage to become a leader.
“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.” Warren Bennis
Dying people regret their lack of courage. But they aren’t talking about fear of death. Bonnie Ware discovered that dying people regret they didn’t have courage to be true to themselves. The number one regret of the dying:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expect of me.”*
When life is a façade, death is appalling.
Courage to become a leader:
Arrogance is fear in disguise. Humility is courageous.
False humility lives like a flinching dog with its tail tucked between its legs. You lose your dignity.
False humility is betrayal of yourself. When you hide from your aspirational self, you extinguish yourself. You are less. The world is less.
Courage to be you:
#1. Don’t fit in, standout.
Everyone who fits in dilutes their contribution to the world. Your greatest contribution is found by standing out, not fitting in.
Bravado yells, “Look at me.” Humility seeks to contribute.
Standout by contributing.
#2. Go human.
Reject the notion that you are special. We’re unique in a few ways and alike in many.
Standing out is not standing alone. Let yourself be seen without oversharing.
The myth of arrogance is you can succeed without others. Simon Sinek believes courage is bolstered by others.
#3. Accept your weaknesses and honor your strengths.
The courage to see yourself is the first step to courage to become a leader. You’re good at a few things and lousy at many.
Arrogance always needs to help but never receives help. Leaders who accept their weaknesses learn to receive help.
The leader who receives the most help goes the furthest.
How might leaders find courage?
*Regrets of the Dying – Bronnie Ware
5 Characteristics of a Courageous Leader | HBS Online
Great info, Dan! Thank you.
I believe what you say holds true for many organizations — but I don’t blame them for it. I started work for a 5 person company, in a barn in Colorado and after a few acquisitions and a few years, ended up an SVP at a 300,000 person financial services organization. The large organization valued conformity the same way that manufacturing values standardized parts. If all of your BA Level VI, act the same way, you can treat them the same and better yet you can stack rank them! Woohoo!
It’s a model that many people appreciate and thrive in. It’s not a model that I thrive in but I understand that sometimes humans just aren’t smart enough to juggle variability and need to simplify.
What it does make me wonder is how, in those large organizations, can you be courageous without fighting the system? One thing that resonates is the advice to go human.
Hi Elizabeth, I think the answer is “no, you can’t”. Any degree of non-conformity is considered to be “fighting back” and so is ruthlessly suppressed. Remember “human capital is fungible”.
I think E Richards is spot on. Speak out at your own peril. But I think the point is if they fire you for being yourself who cares. Move on, find another job. Be courageous! It sounds good but I’m not ready to go there. However I know people that have this level of courage and they are more successful than me. So much is driven by tolerance for risk and uncertainty.
How many organisations honestly want people who stand out? The “looks like one of us” isn’t something that gets written down but it’s in the grain of the culture. When culture beats ability/strategy, nobody wants the non-conformist
There were several good points today, but these really stood out to me: “False humility is betrayal of yourself,” and “We’re unique in a few ways and alike in many. And Bronnie Ware’s “Regrets of the Dying” article hit me in the chest and almost took my breath away. So many of your posts, Dan, apply, not just to leadership, but to life. A heartfelt “Thank you.”