The Art of a Courageous Leader


If the term “Leadership Courage” is new to you, you aren’t alone.

In my eyes, “Leadership Courage” is defined as the art of influencing others while often in the throes of controversy. Courageous leaders don’t look for the easiest path or the simple solutions – they look for the best option even if it’s unpleasant, painful or even terrifying.

While the actual meaning might not be a new concept, the term and theory behind it isn’t something I often come across as a requirement in most of my talent searches. Hiring requests often are filled with words and phrases such as:  Dedicated, smart, excellent communicators, change management gurus, and team players, but in all my years I’ve never heard someone ask for a Courageous Leader – and that’s too bad, because they are critical for growth.

Traits of a Courageous Leader

  • They head straight into battle. They don’t look for the path of least resistance – the easy way out. They can read the situation, determine the ideal or best-case outcome and then lead their team through the necessary steps. There is no brushing unpleasantries under the rug. They fight the battle once, determine the cause, create a solution and move on.
  • Everyone is held accountable to the same standards – ALWAYS. Courageous Leaders understand that a poor performing employee can become cancerous for the team and need to be removed if the situation cannot be fixed. More importantly the leader recognizes that it’s also not good for the employee who is struggling to stay – they just aren’t the right person in the right seat.
  • They are feedback masters – both giving and receiving. Courageous Leaders don’t get offended or defensive if someone has a better way of doing things, they actively seek feedback from others. In turn, they also aren’t afraid to give those around them constructive feedback as well, when needed. It’s all about the greater good – the bigger picture.  Egos are put aside. This also encourages all team members to step up and challenge the status quo – bring new ideas to the table. Good feedback fosters innovation which in turn fosters growth.
  • No man is an island. Courageous Leaders always consult before making big and important decisions. Then they can lead others towards the action items that need to be done to get to the desired outcome. Keeping others informed of the plan and goals encourages them to keep moving forward even if they face additional challenges on the way. This trait will garner respect AND trust from the team.
  • They love and embrace change. Being a Courageous Leader means knowing that change is the constant. Without change nothing new will happen, growth will be stifled. Change isn’t a frustration; it is a challenge to be embraced.

Why are Courageous Leaders critical for the team?

They provide security. With a Courageous Leader at the helm, their team will feel a sense of security knowing that their leader is going to show them the right way and the path to success – they trust their leader. They also know that if things go awry, the leader will take responsibility and protect the team – ALWAYS.

Courage is contagious. Courageous Leaders build confidence within their team in numerous ways. The leader not only empowers the team, but shows them that risks can have huge rewards, failure is ok as long as you learn from it and recover quickly, and speaking up when you have an idea is better than just agreeing to a simple solution. This allows a safe haven for team members to step up and voice their opinions without fear of being shut down.

They make sure the difficult conversations are had. Because Courageous Leaders don’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations and they hold people accountable, they make sure that the difficult problems aren’t danced around and swept under the carpet. They make sure that when everyone leaves a meeting that everyone is aligned, and tasks are assigned. The team learns that feedback isn’t personal – it’s constructive and an opportunity for growth.

They drive you to level up. Courageous Leaders don’t want to remain status quo. They know that in order to level up, you need to make bold decisions, take risks, and truly solve problems the right way – not the easy way. They are strategic thinkers who encourage those around them to also think and take more bold steps to change the way things are done. They are always training their replacement.

Don’t wait for your next hire to bring Leadership Courage to your company – start with yourself…it’s contagious!