Subject Area: Leadership, Overcoming Adversity, Authenticity, Leadership, Avoiding Burnout, Overcoming Adversity, Differentiation, Leading others, Executive development
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Why Courage is so important!
Courage is not the absence of fear, worry, or concern. Courage is moving inspite of your fear. You keep moving, stay the course with your vision, make the hard decisions that in the long run will fulfill your mission. Where most leaders fall short here, is that they disregard, stuff, or try to ignore all the negative feelings and emotions that they experience in times of distress. Emotions that are completely par for the course of being a human being, but often the leader tries to ignore these because of the demands and pressures of leadership. This actually hinders their ability to be courageous and make wise choices.
Why Courage Matters Today
Fear has a way of paralyzing us. It is really hardwired as a positive trait within our limbic system to ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ in response to fear, danger, etc. It’s actually one of the first parts of our brain to develop, with the sole purpose of keeping us alive! The challenge is this limbic region is also what neurobiologists call the ‘primitive brain’. In other words, it is reactive, emotional, and not based on rationale choice. The seat of our emotions live here. Kind of a double wammy, and not fair, the center of our brain that controls our survival, also is where we experience emotions and feelings.
So many people today, leaders included, are reactive and base their behavior and choices off of their emotions and feelings. The “I feel this way so I must do this…” mantra comes from this. Again, hardwired as an automatic response to anything we perceive as a threat to our survival. The limbic region, our survival center is blind, it does not see, it only feels and then releases the appropriate doses of adrenaline to kick us into action. It is also not chronological, in other words, it does not keep record of time. Therefore if today we feel something that reminds of (triggers) something we felt or experienced 5 years ago which at that time we reacted to in a survival response – we will react the exact same way today. Unless we learn to do something different.
Most leaders today have not been equipped with the skills necessary to challenge this emotional status quo, if you will, in how they react. Therefore they are on a survival brain driven ride through life. Every have a colleague go off on you for no apparent reason? Or a spouse? These automatic response can be changed through new experiences. Here’s how it works.
The first step for a leader to change from reactive to response, to step into courage is to recognize their current emotions. Instead of ignoring, stuffing, reacting, or just being oblivious to how you’re feeling, you do need to get in touch with recognizing your emotions. This is not the touchy feely foofy stuff, this is knowing yourself enough to recognize your feelings and emotions at face value. How are you feeling right now, this moment? Do you know why you are feeling the way that you are? No judgment attached. Emotions are what they are, what we do with them is where we attach meaning. We can be angry, as anger is a normal human emotion, and we can let that emotion lead to road rage, or we can let channel that energy into something productive. The choice is yours as a leader. But you’ll never get there if at first you don’t learn to recognize your emotions.
Next step is validate your emotions. It’s great if you recognize your emotions, now to validate them is a matter of self acceptance. The phrase ‘it is, what it is’ comes from this. Whether or not you like that phrase, it is true. Emotions and feelings just are what they are. Everyone has learned responses to emotions, ways to behave in response to, things to think that add meaning to feelings. If you grew up in a family where everyone had to be happy, then you were not allowed to display negative emotions such as sadness, anger, disappointment. If you grew up in a home that anger was the only emotion tolerated, then you learned that the loudest person in the room, or person with the most power, won. There are numerous other examples of this, but you get the point. Validating your emotions in essence says that it’s ok to feel what you feel. It just is. No judgment attached.
Final step in the process is to respond to your emotions appropriately. Do you know what your emotions are telling you that you need? Emotions and feelings are the indicator lights on the dashboard of our mind, body, and spirit. Emotions are ALWAYS connected to needs. When I feel hungry, I need to eat. When I’m tired, I need to sleep. When I’m angry, I’m responding to feeling hurt. This is where you change the automatic response, both thoughts and actions, from your emotions and actually choose what your going to do in response to your feelings, based on what you need. Here is where you choose to grow. Courage is not the absence of fear, it is defined as moving in spite of the fear. Courageous leaders recognize that they are afraid (of the future, financial insecurity, lack of success, etc), they validate the emotion of fear as normal (because any change causes disruption), then authentic leaders respond with courage. They lean into the discomfort, and choose to move forward. They choose growth.
- Trait 1 – Courage
- Courage is not the absence of fear, worry, or concern. Courage is moving inspite of your fear. You keep moving, stay the course with your vision, make the hard decisions that in the long run will fulfill your mission. Where most leaders fall short here, is that they disregard, stuff, or try to ignore all the negative feelings and emotions that they experience in times of distress. Emotions that are completely par for the course of being a human being, but often the leader tries to ignore these because of the demands and pressures of leadership. This actually hinders their ability to be courageous and make wise choices.
- Authentic leaders are able to recognize their emotions, validate their feelings, and respond to what they need with courage.