This essay was written by Terēze Teibe, Viragi Gunasekara and Saniat Amin.
Courage is a crucial aspect of self-leadership and managing performance-oriented teams. It enables proactivity and self-awareness, a willingness to step out of the comfort zone to handle hardships and to gain the power to take control over uncertainty and make a positive impact. However, even though research has proven that everybody is capable of being brave, learning, and strengthening their courage, only one in three believes that they are courageous (Solomon, 2018). Thus, there is a difference between personal bravery and courageousness within a team.
For an act of courage to happen (at least in a team setting), trust must be built first (Sinek, 2019; Brown 2018). Continuing T. Teibe’s work on “Trust”, this essay outlines the foundation for courage, discusses how it can be fostered both personally and within the teams, as well as how to encourage and stimulate more acts of Courage every day.
2. The Base of Courage
2.1 Courage or Confidence
What comes to mind while overlooking the topic of Courage is the comparison between having Courage versus having confidence. In Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries Courage is explained as “the ability to do something dangerous, or to face pain or opposition without having fear” whereas confidence is “the feeling that you can trust, believe in and be sure about the abilities or good qualities of somebody /something” (Oxford Learners Dictionaries, n.d.). As Kayode Ewumi explains, many people are found to be extremely confident, however, when it comes to Courage – not so many have what it takes to be courageous (Ewumi 2017). Thus, it is also falsely believed within society that there are only a few people who are born Brave and that Courage is aligned with heroic Deeds that put one’s life in danger. However, that is a myth. In TEDx SonomaCounty in 2018 C. Solomon, a leadership expert that has spent over 2 decades Researching courage, spoke up about the fact, that this notion which is built from People’s anxiety and fear of going out of their comfort zone, is false. After over 8000 interviews and two decades of research related to this topic, only 1/3 of the respondents think that they are courageous. Nevertheless, it was also proven by the research that 100% of Humanity has what it takes to be courageous, and courage, as she compares, is a muscle that can be strengthened. (Solomon, 2018.) only 1/3 of the respondents think that they are courageous. Nevertheless, it was also proven by the research that 100% of Humanity has what it takes to be courageous, and courage, as she compares, is a muscle that can be strengthened. (Solomon, 2018.) only 1/3 of the respondents think that they are courageous. Nevertheless, it was also proven by the research that 100% of Humanity has what it takes to be courageous, and courage, as she compares, is a muscle that can be strengthened. (Solomon, 2018.)
Moreover, as B. Brown reveals in her book “Dare to Lead”, the difference between thinking that one is not good enough and thinking that they are better than others is simply in stagnation. With more time spent overthinking the fear of discomfort, it is not so hard to switch from being overly insecure to being too proud of one’s abilities and achievements. (Brown 2018, 52.) However, in the same way as the fear that spreads when activated, so does courage. Courage is contagious. (Sinek, 2019; Davis, 2020.) Then again, by choosing to be courageous, the individual must be ready to fail and make mistakes. To be disappointed and face many difficulties along the way in order to become more courageous and expand the comfort zone. Again, that is also the reason why Courage is rare. Why there are only 1/3 that can confidently say that they are courageous.
2.2 Understanding Courage
Courage is a quality that has long been identified as being vital. Aristotle considered Courage as a warrior’s quality which emphasizes determination and acceptance of death. In the words of St. Thomas, Fortitude and Patience unite to generate courage. Plato believed that Courage involved conquering one’s own Joys and desires as well as apprehension about harm or conflict. (Prochniak 2017.)
According to researchers currently, courage is having the capacity to persevere through disappointment while confronting one’s own fear as well as the pursuit of an admirable goal. The aforementioned definition of courage emphasizes the need for persistence in conquering challenges that may stand in the way of achieving one’s goals. Researchers have proposed many different types of courage, each with unique characteristics and behavioral effects. Putman’s definition from 1997 states that these various displays of courage can take on a variety of forms, ranging from physical to moral, and they can have a big impact on how people act in public and make decisions. (Prochniak, 2017.)
Physical bravery refers to actions which result in physical harm or potentially death, whereas moral courage encompasses morally noble deeds that may not be acknowledged by community. On the other hand, psychological bravery is displayed when the mental health of an individual is in danger. Lopez, O’Byrne, and Peterson (2003) defined courage as the capacity for the strength to face and accept one’s negative traits, which may cause challenging cognitive, emotional, and existential problems. Since the wilderness necessitates a range of attributes of physical, mental, and emotional fortitude, this courage is particularly crucial. Through such interactions, a person can learn significant details about their skills, weaknesses, and personal development. Finally, the wild is a place where one may acquire courage, self-awareness, and resilience. (Prochniak, 2017.)
Walton (1986) put forward the three components of courage in order to define the characteristics of heroic deeds. Before being able to evaluate risks and make wise decisions, it is first necessary to be attentive and deliberate. Second, people must encounter difficult, dangerous, and painful situations while overcoming their fears and limitations. Finally, the agent’s actions must be inspired by a morally noble desire to ensure that their heroic efforts advance some higher moral purpose. (Prochniak, 2017.)
It has the potential to examine courage in an assortment of contexts, which can provide valuable insights regarding how individuals behave in a variety of contexts. In their 2010 research investigating courage in organizations, Kilmann, O’Hara, and Strauss stated its function in leadership and decision-making. Martin (2011) looked into how courage impacted academic achievement and career choice in the context of education. Furthermore, Konter and Ng (2012) demonstrated how courage may be examined within the context of conventional sports through exploring how it influences players’ performance. Brymer and Oades (2009) surveyed participants in an assortment of high-risk endeavors, including BASE jumping, rafting, single rope climbing, and severe climbing. In these conversations, participants demonstrated experiencing be concerned associated with these hazardous practices. They said they were able to develop themselves professionally and emotionally by overcoming these difficulties, and they experienced a sense of accomplishment. In an effort to cope with their worries and acquire new abilities, people regularly find themselves stepping away from their comfort zones. It was apparent that individual’s persistent engagement of their anxieties brought individuals in their natural state strength and resiliency, which at some point increased their lives. (Prochniak, 2017.)
The notion of courage is able to be perceived in a wide range of forms, nevertheless Rate, Clarke, Lindsay, and Sternberg (2007) present an extensive overview that consists of five fundamental components. They incorporate the following components in their notion of courage: An action must be (a) purposeful, conscious, (b) performed after deliberate thought, (c) objectively dangerous to the actor, (d) motivated primarily to promote a higher good or valuable end, and (e) carried out despite hesitation or dread. This in-depth explanation considers the mental and emotional aspects of courage in addition to its moral traits, which are crucial for understanding this phenomenon. By analyzing these elements, it is possible to better comprehend the real significance of courage and how it affects both individuals and society. (Amos & Klimoski, 2014.)
Using the aforementioned concept, it becomes apparent that speaking about team leadership, especially according to challenging circumstances, can significantly help in increasing courage. As the foundation to figure out the function of courage in this circumstance, the definition provides a framework to urge increasing professional focus on the discretionary nature of team leadership. This framework attempts to facilitate the way individuals identify and nurture the fearlessness required to cope with leadership issues within their teams. As a result, there may be an improvement in performance and teamwork, which will ultimately benefit the organization as a whole. (Amos & Klimoski, 2014.)
3. Building Courage
Firstly, courage does not eliminate fear. To be courageous means to be able to face one’s fear and to have enough strength to take the best from it. In other words – courage is not about being fearless. In fact, fear combined with an adrenaline rush can stimulate action and the act of courage. Therefore, fear and courage are very much aligned in this sense, meaning that if one does not feel the alarm, it is also possible that they are not giving their full attention to the challenge or the struggles that might arise along the way while performing the act of courage. As a result, there are only two possible options – to act or not to act. (Solomon, 2018.)
It is common to experience anxious thoughts in challenging situations, such as thinking that the person is “not good enough”, “intelligent enough”, “strong enough,” or overall – enough. These are, as C. Solomon calls – “the courage stranglers”. Where concerns start to question one’s capabilities and, therefore, can influence one’s willingness and ability to act. Then again, research data has proven that most individuals share an understanding that courage is also in the small actions they all perform every day. Yet, people often recognize these experiences as courage when they discuss other people’s struggles.
Courage is to dream as well as it is to voice and express the dream despite the self-doubts and criticism. It is in seeing reality as it is. In the ability to confront others and to be confronted. In hearing other people (even if the delivery is far from respectful), bravery in stepping into the unknown, learning, and personal growth. Being able to risk, fail, and try again. In giving up the need to be always right. Creating relationships, connecting with others, being vulnerable, and being open to the personal needs and to the needs of others. Courage to take action. Act despite fear and doubt. Do what feels right even if it is far from comfortable and means sacrifice. Start from scratch. Live. (Staub, 2016.)
Another important note, by consciously choosing to take more courageous acts, one has more power, over whom they become, and the people and environment around them. Moreover, courageous individuals have the power to influence others to not be afraid to face challenges, and, therefore, this allows more people to strengthen their courage muscle and tackle more complex problems. Again, courage is contagious. (Staub, 2016; Solomon, 2018.) Accordingly, there is evidence that 100% of humans possess the capacity for courage, are capable of learning courage, and can strengthen their ability to be courageous and their resistance to fear overtaking the control of their decisions if they are placed in situations in which they must use their courage “muscle”. This leads to the realization that a mentality of seeking discomfort can be useful for building courage both on a personal level as well as in a team setting.
For personal growth, K. Ewumi encourages individuals to start with self-leadership and take action first, even if there is not much support from others, stating that support and recognition will come after. His advice for building personal courage is to spend quality time alone where the person can note their goals and ideas in their distinctive way and then take action. This can help with clarifying “why” one should take on such a challenge and what are the possible benefits of it to find the courage to undertake it. Then with this thought, one can face the challenge. However, then there is another important note that he adds which is crucial in the act of courage – dedication. There will be struggles along the way and the person must be prepared to make mistakes, face challenges, and practice to improve (even if they look rather foolish at first). (Ewumi, 2017.)
Cindy Solomon’s advice for building courage both personally and professionally is to focus on the after-feeling when undertaking a courageous act. The first action, she says, is to spot the opportunity and whenever there is anxiety, to recognize it as an opportunity that will strengthen the courage “muscle”. Second, to get comfortable with discomfort. In the same way as K. Ewumi (2017) mentions in his speech, C. Solomon also emphasizes that stepping out of the comfort zone into a new challenge could be compared to learning a new language. Nobody can learn a new language immediately and become fluent without practicing, determination, and making multiple errors along the way. The third aspect that helps in courage building is to shift the perspective from focusing on the worst possible consequences to the best possible outcome, as it has a very noticeable effect on the attitude (and also in the belief that one’s actions can make an impact). (Solomon, 2018.)
4. Courage in Team Leadership
“As companies ask their employees to take more risks, innovate at every turn, and anticipate the future, courage is becoming an ever-more critical leadership and job skill.” (Solomon, n.d.)
When building courage in a team setting, trust is essential. Trust, or as S. Sinek calls it “the net”, is what nurtures the acts of courage within the team. Thus, members of the organization are more likely to challenge themselves and feel comfortable with taking bold decisions if they know that somebody would always be there to support them along the way, regardless of the outcomes. (Sinek, 2019.) Besides, the leader is the one who is responsible for creating a working environment that stimulates trust-based relationships. A good, empathetic leader is one who “lives by the principle of a servant’s heart”. The person who shows that they care about their teammates and would sacrifice their interests to protect their team. (Sinek, 2019.) Also, real-life team leadership is far more complex than studying leadership. B. Brown who is well known for her research in shame, vulnerability, and leadership states that the only thing that requires the same level of self-awareness and communicating strategies as it is in leadership positions is her experience in twenty-four years of marriage and parenting. (Brown 2018, 4.)
The leader is the person who took the risk first, and then everybody followed (Solomon, 2018; Sinek, 2019). They were courageous enough to take a leadership position and show that people could trust them. K. Ewumi compares leadership to passengers and pilots, explaining that leaders are the first to have courage, to invest many resources, and to perform to be trusted to fly the plane so that their team (passengers) would have a good flight from the point A to B (Ewumi, 2017). However, trust is the basis for courage. Thus, it takes time and many acts of courage that shows that the leader is trustworthy for their team to fully develop a sense of trust that would later support the team to be courageous and have the power to handle the hardships together (and it is worth it). (Sinek, 2019).
B. Brown’s research performed by interviewing senior leaders about the crucial changes in today’s leadership concluded that people “need braver leaders and more courageous cultures” (Brown 2018, 6). Brave leadership involves overcoming one’s fears that affect the individual’s reactions, thoughts, feelings, and performance. Moreover, working with other people requires care and building connection, and it is, therefore, important that leaders understand that vulnerability is at the centre of courage (Brown 2018, 12; 28). To enhance the courage within the team, one must think about the use of empathy and vulnerability within the team setting. Again, leaders are the ones that create the setting of the working environment, and that means creating a space where people feel safe and stimulated to be courageous.
5. Increasing Courage with “5 Second Rule”
“The 5 Second Rule” provides a powerful framework for overcoming fears with courage and taking control over the actions one consciously makes every day. One of the keys to increasing courage is the idea of “activation energy.” Robbins (2017) explains that just like in chemistry, where activation energy is the energy needed to start a chemical reaction, people also need activation energy to start acting toward their goals. By counting down from 5 to 1 which is a simple and actionable step to follow people activate their prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for their decision-making and taking action.
The idea behind the “5 Second Rule” is that when someone has an impulse to take action towards a goal or task, there is a window of just 5 seconds to decide between to act or not to act on it before the brain starts to invent excuses, doubts, and fears that would prevent one from taking the action. (Robbins 2017, 55.) The technique involves counting backward from 5 to 1 when one receives an impulse to act on something and then to take action as soon as reaching 1. By doing this, the human brain’s natural tendency to hesitate, doubt, and overthink will be interrupted, giving an additional “small push” to take action toward the goal. (Robbins 2017, 41.) Thus, this method can be applied to a wide range of situations, starting from getting out of bed early in the morning to making consequential decisions. It has helped many people to overcome their procrastination and achieve their goals with courage.
Mel Robbins (2017) explains that there is science behind the 5-second rule and how it triggers a new neural pathway in the human brain, making it possible for one to take control over actions and make positive changes in life. According to Robbins (2017), the human brain is wired to protect one from danger, and it often perceives taking risks or trying new things as a threat to safety. Therefore, this fear response can then later lead to hesitation and self-doubt, which then prevents action and pursuing one’s dreams. There is an “auto-pilot” of the human brain and “the emergency break”, and the second one is what eliminates the idea whenever the mind detects discomfort (Robbins, 2011).
Another piece of advice to increase courage is to stop using the word “fine” as an answer because then there is no room for innovation and change to happen. There is a certain comfort that one can find when stating that “they are fine” or “the situation is fine”. Often it is people themselves that they are trying to convince that they do not need to fulfill their desires because it is also fine as it is. This, she adds, is what often stops one to become the best version of themselves because they start to find comfort in discomfort. (Robbins, 2011.) M. Robbins (2017) also emphasizes the importance of shifting focus on small, consistent changes and the progress made every day by taking action instead of focusing on the result – that way people can overcome the fear of failure and build momentum toward goals.
“The 5-second rule” applies to different areas of life, including enhancing productivity, and health, breaking unpleasant habits, overcoming procrastination, and building better relationships. By interrupting the negative thought patterns that are there to sabotage one’s efforts to take action, one can create a lasting change in their life. This approach can be particularly helpful for getting started on tasks that previously have been avoided. Moreover, it can also be applied to specific challenges that one may face in their life such as fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. M. Robbins (2017) explains that excuses are the stories people want to tell themselves to justify not taking action toward their goal realization, but with this method, one can reduce the tendency to seek comfort in excuses and start taking action to overcome their fears and achieve better potential, and overall well-being.
Climbing a typical six-foot ladder is like building reserve courage. Each successive step grows higher and closer together after the first, resulting in broad and deep. The ascent can become a little unstable when the steps slope off approach the top of the ladder. Those who are consistently “up” do not readily give up their beliefs or judgments when challenged. It requires self-efficacy, the capability to bring about the intended outcome or impact to convey an idea for someone to be prepared to leave a meeting once it has concluded. It is not at all like this to be narrow-minded and closed-minded. They value bravery and cling to accepting full responsibility for their actions. The patterns that underlying their beliefs are under their control, and they are aware of their fear zone energies. As people proceed up the ladder, the desire to seize opportunities to enhance care standards, commit to the team’s goal, and overcome challenges develops. (Walston, 2004.)
Unfortunately, 20% of people never get through the initial obstacle. They discontinue it before they begin since they don’t comprehend what they want to achieve. The other 80% of individuals set goals for both their personal and professional endeavors. The crew bonds together as the challenges mount and breaks to refuel. In 65% of scenarios, people decide to settle since they find satisfaction in their current situation. Only 15% of organizations continue to grow after reevaluating their goals and maintaining faithfulness to their original mission and vision. In trying circumstances, they ask themselves, “Do they really want this?” They then modify their direction and evaluate if the sacrifice is worthwhile. If improvements to their original strategy need to be made, they will do accordingly. (Walston, 2004.)
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