I remember early on in my career while working for a well-known, international company, I was flown down to the United States for a very important leadership conference. I had just recently been promoted from middle management to executive level and I was full of excitement about what I was going to learn and experience, while at the same time feeling a little intimidated.
That feeling of intimidation came to a crashing halt when I realized the first event of the conference was to watch the movie “The Wizard of Oz”. That was probably the most expensive movie watching I’ve ever participated in considering the room was full of executives who had been flown in from around the world. I still remember the words that were floating around in my head “Are you kidding me?!?” This is what it takes to be a senior leader?
Metaphors Can Be Useful
Naturally I was missing the point. The purpose of showing us this classic movie was not because the organizers thought it was a good movie, rather, they were setting the stage about how important having courage is, among many of the other important leadership lessons learned throughout the movie.
“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.” Frank Baum,The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Real Life Courage
Life requires courage. If we didn’t all have courage we wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning and function in this world. Let’s face it, the world can be a scary place and one needs courage to be able to confront it. But there are different degrees of courage required.
When we hear the word courage, we often think of bravery and fortitude. The word courage actually comes from the French word coeur which means ‘heart’. Its origins referred to courage as our emotions and feelings – i.e. matters of the heart.
Today, a much more complex understanding of courage is required. To be an effective leader in a world that is constantly evolving, where the rules that applied yesterday no longer apply and our customers live in parts of the world we possibly have never yet travelled, it is vitally important that we have leadership courage.
Leadership courage is required when one:
- Is being authentic
- Artistically expresses themselves in a creative way
- Makes a career change
- Pursues their passions
- Stands up for what is right
- Acts with integrity rather than expedience
- Makes a decision and takes a stand
- Perseveres into the unknown
- Is willing to have challenging conversations
Can Courage, Particularly Leadership Courage, be Learned?
As the lion learned in the movie, courage comes from within. He first had to overcome his fear, anxiety and lack of confidence to discover his own courage.
We all have courage. To what extent we demonstrate our courage is based upon our past experiences, our capability of tapping into our innate ability, and the environment we find ourselves in.
Coaching can assist a person in discovering their courage, and here’s how:
- Encouragement – Providing signs of encouragement and support will help enable someone to push through their fears and strengthen this emotional muscle.
- Experience – Assisting someone to see how their past experiences both professionally and personally have been acts of courage can help them lessen their anxiety and understand that they already have demonstrated this ability, and can do it again.
- Culture – By building a culture that encourages employees to speak up, and supports leaders to make decisions, over time their confidence levels will build – and so too will the leader’s confidence in themselves and in others.
Now the question is, do you have the courage to be a leader?
Executive Coaches Group
The Executive Coaches Group can help your leaders learn coaching techniques that can generate the best work from your teams, identify individuals’ strengths and provide the support you need to ensure your workplace is conducive to courageous acts. And we can do this without showing the movie. Call us to learn more.