How to Display Courageous Leadership

Written by Sandra Ford Walston, The Courage Expert

As a Courage Coach and consultant in courageous leadership, employees at all levels ask me intriguing questions. Below are four questions and answers that you might find interesting:courageous leadership

 1)  A director of HR shared a situation about a courageous hiring decision that demonstrated courageous leadership when she was confronted about hiring an “outsider.” What would you have done?

She said, “While it would have been the risk-free and popular decision to merely promote an internal favorite to a recently vacated executive position, I decided to take a significant risk in hiring a stellar candidate external to the organization who could lead a very important department from competent to excellent. This choice, even during times of economic uncertainty dictated structural change and altered “business as usual.” It took courage to approach....

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2) Transitions seem to be here to stay. What courageous behaviors must I implement so I don’t sell my soul?

First of all, just recognizing that you are selling your soul reveals that you are coming from a higher level of courage consciousness. Why? Because you know you are doing it!

The energy in many organizations borders on “don’t rock the boat.” With this attitude, complacency settles in—one of eight courage killers. You and the organization must be willing to be uncomfortable—this is where “courageous will” lives and grows. You take the courageous action in spite of the circumstances that have you stuck. Please know that courage can go into hiding, so make it your friend, then your courage is there when you need it and you can draw from your sustainable reservoir. Courageous leadership is a reality for only those willing to pay the price!

3) I was curious, if you were to narrow the aspects of courageous leadership down to the top three kernels, what would you suggest?

  1. The first kernel, and the most critical, would be starting to implement some sort of reflective exercise, better known to some as introspection. I call this a commitment to “courage-centering.” Start with this simple question: Are you genuinely willing to give yourself permission to claim your courage? If the answer is “yes,” then
  2. The second kernel asks: are you willing to learn how to distinguish the 12 courage actions such as work without regrets, confront uncomfortable truths and instills self-discipline that demonstrates courageous leadership behaviors?
  3. The third kernel would be to discern how to sustain “courageous will” in spite of circumstances? In other words, when your time comes to pass on, will you be filled with regrets such as predominately doing what others wanted you to do?  

4) A new CEO has arrived to replace the retiring CEO that everyone loved for his easy-going approach. The new CEO is gruff and direct and sometimes too quick in making critical decisions. This is not my style. I don’t know if he’s going to be a “one man show” such as “I will make the decisions and you will not be included.” What can I possibly do to practice a courageous leadership environment?

Do not swallow your voice—stay in your true Self! You do this by being an “observer” of the chattering ego. What is your self-talk saying? If you stay courage-centered you won’t hedge how you feel? On a stronger note, if he becomes a bully, he may use words or a tone that hurts (read this article: “The Language of Courage”).

You must be willing to say, “Excuse me, I listen better and I am more receptive with a different tone” or even a stronger comment is, “Excuse me, you don’t get to talk to me that way. I am happy to talk to you, but I will not accept that tone.” This suggests the courage action called “reveal vulnerability” and the obstacle is manipulation.  Candor is a cousin to courage (and there are 11 more cousins to courage such as consistency, clarity and confessing).


Sandra Ford Walston is known as The Courage Expert and innovator of StuckThinking™. She is an organizational effectiveness consultant, speaker, trainer and courage coach. She is the internationally published author of bestseller COURAGE The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman (2001), the follow-up book STUCK 12 Steps Up the Leadership Ladder (2010) and the recently released FACE IT! 12 Obstacles that Hold You Back on the Job (2011). She is certified in the Enneagram and MBTI®. Please visit

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