What does it mean to have courage? How would you define courage?
Facing a dangerous situation that could cause you pain, I believe, would be considered having courage, like running into a house on fire to save someone. I think having courage is also preparing yourself to face situations that could be painful, dangerous, or cause harm to you in a negative way demonstrates courage. Have you prepared to face a group you were unsure how it would go to? Maybe you have, and perhaps you have not.
What impact does courage have in the workplace?
As we define courage as preparing to face or face dangerous, painful, or something to cause harm to self, it is natural to insert the opposite of courage would be fear. An individual or leader who demonstrates fear in the workplace would make it near impossible to accomplish anything, I think you would agree. Fearful leaders would have afraid followers.
Debbie Ford is the author of Courage: Overcoming Your Fears and Igniting Self-Confidence (2012), and she tells us paralyzing fears, repressed self-confidence, and untapped courage are the obstacles that prevent us from making powerful choices—choices that are in concert with our best interests and deepest desires.
Having courage in the workplace is facing fears boldly. Leaders with courage can create a culture of trust and respect. It takes courage to do the right thing when the easy way out may not be the right way. Standing up for your core values and beliefs demonstrates courage when it may not be the same as those around you. Courage is shown in many different ways. The impact of having the courage or overcoming your fears determines the success of the team you are working with and the goals you need to accomplish.
What would courage look like in the workplace?
- Modeling- It takes courage to model the core values needed in a positive work environment. If there are individuals in the workplace who what some may identify as “toxic” elements, demonstrating to them how it is not accepted by you and modeling always the better approach can inspire others to do the same. This will multiply the positive vibes throughout the group.
- Getting Uncomfortable- Courage is when we can step out of our comfort zone, but not to the point we can’t handle the situations we volunteer ourselves to do. Risk taking works only when we can be successful at completing the tasks. Understand your abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Every time we can succeed in risk-taking, the more confident we become, but also everyone else on the team.
- Dream and Think Big- Shoot for the moon; at least you will land among the stars. We have to be realistic about our goals, but we do not need to settle for mediocre. The question is 1 + 1=. The answer is 3. It is a pretty good answer, but it is not the answer. Our team wants and needs to know our goals, vision, and mission. How will we get there, and when we do, then what? Striving always to do better is courage.
- Jump in!- No need to check the temperature-jump in! Do not wait for something to happen or for someone to tell you; if you see an issue, fix it. Walking down the hallway, you see a puddle of water. Someone could slip and fall if they do not see it. Is it not in your job description to mop the floors? Pull something over to mark the spot and find something to clean up the water. Notify maintenance of what you have done so they can adequately secure the area. When you see something: Do something, Say something and Be the solution, not the problem. Have the courage to recognize problems; the water is a small problem. There are bigger ones out there to address, have the courage to tackle them.
A few additional things I believe show courage in the workplace are: Being able to say no, being assertive, asking questions, getting input from others, and picking your battles wisely. I believe I used all of these together in my last interaction with my previous boss, which is why I say the previous boss. It was the best thing for me; I am unsure how she feels. Be wise in how you approach any of your ways to show courage. Courage is exactly what is needed in every workplace!
Cathy Lassiter’s book Everyday Courage for School Leaders provides four domains of courage: Moral Courage, Intellectual Courage, Disciplined Courage, and Empathetic Courage. Each domain indicates elements of thoughts in how it relates to the work of school leaders. I recommend this book to school leaders as a great book to read and utilize.
As a school leader, you already have so much courage. All people who are involved in education today have courage. I think about the teachers who show up each day, the bus drivers who pick students up, the cooks who serve food each day, and the maintenance crews who keep the schools operating. The students who come to school have courage if you learn their stories. Our families show the most courage. They share their precious children with us daily, and I have been so honored as others in education.
Be the solution daily with the courage you show in all you do!