In your mind, you likely have some broad idea of what courage means. But courage as a concept is wildly misunderstood. I believe you can’t truly understand what courage is without first understanding what courage isn’t.
When we think of courage, we can’t help but picture extraordinarily brave feats performed by those in the military, firefighters, astronauts, or police officers. The idea of being able to tap into this type of immeasurable courage is foreign to most of us. We simply can’t relate since we aren’t putting our lives on the line, nor are we superheroes. What kind of courage is there for the rest of us?
In business, employer courage may be the kind of courage that you need. Employer courage teaches you how to be courageous with your business. Return On Courage is your business playbook for courageous change that includes a step-by-step, how-to guide to build your Central Courage System®.It will teach you how and when to be courageous at work. It provides concrete instructions that, once learned, will help you and your coworkers make astute, bold decisions that will help improve your business.
There’s a very thin line between what is perceived as genuinely courageous and what is seen as reckless. Courage does not mean stupidity. Courage is not a suicide mission. In fact, courage should always start with knowledge. In business, courage is leaping with a plan. The sooner you realize that courage is not an aimless leap but rather a calculated decision that starts with knowledge, the better prepared you can be for tomorrow.
When breaking down this myth, we need to properly audit all three components: risk, solo, and journey. Let’s start with the journey. Courage is primarily a how, not a what. Courage is how you respond to those stressful business moments. Calculated, audacious leaders know that courage is right there with them in the muck of a difficult decision helping them deliver innovative products or liberating messages. It’s sending a press release in which you take a bold, unified position on a controversial topic like gender pay equality.
While I believe that courage is undoubtedly a journey, I don’t perceive it to be as risky as we think, nor do I think it’s something that we face on our own. Yes, there will always be some level of uncertainty when it comes to making courageous decisions, but those decisions are a lot less risky when you are prepared. When you know yourself completely, when you commit to what matters most to you, it’s easier to make the right choice—which feels less risky. Risk becomes less important than doing what you think is right.
Is courage a journey you take alone? No one gets to where they need to be alone. When it comes to courage in business, there is no “do it yourself ”; there is only “do it together.” You need your team to be on board to be successfully bold in business. Sure, you definitely start on this journey alone because there has to be a personal commitment. Once you willingly commit, you need to make sure you have a solid foundation and surround yourself with a loyal support system that will help you get through whatever strife comes your way.
The business world is tough enough. Going it alone is unnecessary. Even when you’re a sole practitioner, you can hire a business coach, put in place an advisory board, or create an internal committee to help you through the tough decisions and potential hardships. If you have a solid plan in place and a committed team to help you, your journey will be less risky, and you won’t have to feel—or go it—alone.
We are all familiar with Hollywood blockbuster action movies. Often, the movie’s main character gets in a predicament where they either need to be rescued or, like a hero, must swoop in, risking their own life and limb to save the day. These edge-of-your-seat moments make great movie scenes. Unfortunately, many people misinterpret these off-the-cuff, gut decisions as courage.
Back here in the real world, this kind of rash decision making comes off as reactive and lacking strategy. It’s one of the reasons that courage as a business value is rejected. Words like fearless, brave, bullish, and courage often get discounted in the workplace because they seem not to be anchored in a deliberate master plan. These words suffer the consequences of being considered impulsive, which leads many to avoid them.
To a spectator, courageous acts may appear impulsive. Courageous instincts and actions come from experience, however, not from a gut impulse made on a hunch. It is something you train and practice for—it is something to be learned. With constant repetition, you will be prepared to make seemingly fast decisions where ingrained instinct takes over.
Though a great deal of information may be out there on courage, when it came time to find books that studied business courage, pickings were slim. Perhaps we don’t prepare to be courageous because we perceive it to be innate. Or perhaps we disregard courage because we believe it can’t be taught.
Business courage is something we can grow like a muscle. We can begin to rehearse it in our everyday work lives. We can create a process that helps us practice courage. Courage is not an inherent trait; it can be learned with practice. With repeated practice, anyone can achieve a state of courage. Routine makes it a habit. The more you train, the more you strengthen and stretch that skill.
When we reminisce about the handful of courageous moves we’ve made in our lives, we can’t help but nostalgically recall those few but daring leaps of faith. Maybe you moved to a new city where you knew virtually no one. Maybe you took on a cutting-edge job that required a skill set that was outside your comfort zone. Maybe you didn’t accept a job offer until they agreed to match your salary counter.
Without examining these courage myths, we can see how and why the idea of courage is rejected in boardrooms and business conversations nationwide. But once we dissect these myths and realize what courage is not, it can help us better understand how to properly unlock courage in our corporations, giving us a competitive advantage many others wish they could obtain.
Those who have courage don’t see themselves as courageous, and those who don’t have courage misunderstand the definition as something wildly unattainable or not for them. If the current working definition of courage is “doing something that frightens you,” then it’s time to boldly take a stab at redefining the word for the greater good of us all.