Many of us think bravery is an innate quality - you either have it or you don't. But courage and bravery are skills we can all develop, as Brene Brown asserts in her book Dare to Lead.
The Courage to Lead is Essential to Your Success
As a new leader, courage is essential to your success. You'll need bravery to have difficult conversations, challenge the status quo, ask for help, and admit when you don't have all the answers. Developing courage is possible if you focus on building the necessary skills.
How Can I Practice Courage as a Leader?
Start by getting comfortable with discomfort. The situations that require bravery are often new and unfamiliar. That discomfort you feel is normal, and you shouldn't try to ignore it. Sit with the discomfort and allow yourself to feel afraid while acting bravely anyway. This ability to hold two emotions at once is key.
Next, practice self-compassion. Perfectionists and people-pleasers can struggle to be courageous because they're afraid of criticism or disappointing others. Counter this by treating yourself with the same compassion as a friend in a similar situation. Recognise you're doing the best you can to develop new skills.
Another tip is to reframe the narrative. That self-doubt and those negative thoughts questioning your abilities are normal, but don't let them become your truth. Reframe that internal narrative and focus instead on growth and development. Remind yourself that courage is a skill you're building.
Start small to build confidence. Look for everyday opportunities to practice brave behaviours
Start small to build confidence. Look for everyday opportunities to practice brave behaviours, like speaking up in meetings, taking on tasks that push you out of your comfort zone, or having tricky conversations about small issues. Small victories will nurture the confidence you need for bigger acts of courage.
And sometimes, you just have to feel the fear and do it anyway. That presentation, difficult conversation or big ask won't get any less scary. Summon your courage, embrace the discomfort and know that bravery gets easier with practice. With each courageous act, you're building your confidence muscle.
Don't go it alone. Ask trusted mentors and colleagues to support you as you build these skills. Their advice, experience and encouragement can make acts of bravery feel much less daunting. And find yourself a community, online or offline, to share the journey with others working on courage.
Creating a Leadership Habit
With practice, courage becomes a habit. Focus on progress over perfection. Reflect on what went well after each brave step, not where you faltered. Over time, summoning bravery in all the uncertainty and discomfort of leadership will get easier. But it does take work.
As Brene Brown says, "Brave is a verb" - an action we intentionally choose and develop through constant practice.
About the Author
Melissa is a Leadership Coach and Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator based in Dorset, with a particular interest in supporting people who are stepping up from managing individuals to leading other managers.