This month the leadership quality that we will focus on is Courage. As we are writing this in March, when International Women’s Day falls, we thought we’d highlight some courageous women leaders who epitomize what it means to #PressforProgress and lessons about courage that we can learn from them. We chose women who are all still alive rather than women in history because courageous women are doing great things in society today.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence OBE, is a British Jamaican campaigner and the mother of Stephen Lawrence, a black British teenager who was murdered in a racist attack in South East London,1993. Instead of being consumed by anger, Doreen courageously promoted reforms of the police service and founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. She was appointed OBE for “services to community relations” in 2003, and was created a Life Peer in 2013. In January 2016, she was unveiled as the new Chancellor of De Montfort University.
Katie Piper is an English philanthropist, television presenter and former model. She had hoped to have a full-time career in the media, but in March 2008, sulphuric acid was thrown in her face. Her ex-boyfriend arranged the attack, which blinded Piper in one eye. In 2009, Katie made the courageous choice to give up her anonymity in order to increase awareness about burn victims in acclaimed Channel 4 documentary Katie: My Beautiful Face.
Gina Miller is a British–Guyanese business owner who initiated the Brexit case, saying that it has been initiated without approval from Parliament. Gina has courageously continued to speak up on matters that she believes unlawful even though this has led to threats to her and her family’s lives. Gina also founded the True and Fair Campaign in 2012, calling for an end to rip offs in the investment and pension industries.
These women showed courage in:
- Speaking truth to power.
- Taking leaps in their career.
- & Setting their own direction.
Doreen, Katie and Gina are of course outstanding human beings, but courage isn’t always high profile and dramatic. You might need courage in:
- asking your boss for a pay rise.
- standing up for your values.
- saying ‘no’.
- going for job interviews.
- working on and towards your vision, in an unsupportive environment.
So how can you cultivate courage in your life and work? Here are my 4 top tips:
- Be Afraid yet Choose to Act
It’s much more difficult to listen to yourself than the other loud and well-meaning voices around you, but your voice is the one that matters. If Doreen, Katie and Gina hadn’t, they wouldn’t be making the world a better and fairer place for the rest of us. This path can be a more uncertain one, but what is certain anyway? Make fear your friend, rather than the enemy that holds you back.
- Persevere in the face of adversity
Stephen Lawrence’s mother, Doreen, said ’21 years of struggle, and there is still more to come.’ Most things worth doing are difficult. Perhaps you’ve trained for a sport or studied for a test, it’s unlikely that it was easy but most definitely worth it. Wake up each day with your courageous intention and aim to embody it each day, looking at it this way makes it more achievable and less draining.
- Stand up for what is right
“Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” — Maggie Kuhn, Social Activist.
You may need to be assertive, voice your views, concerns or take positive action for what you believe in and this is where courage comes in. Even though it isn’t easy to step up and stand up for what you believe in, the confidence that you will gain by doing so will help you in all areas of your life.
- Choose Learning over Comfort
Do something different, something that isn’t you and see what you learn from it.
Here are some things that you can do if they are things that are not typical of you: Speak up at a meeting; offer to help someone, be decisive. Treat it as an experiment and see what you learn about yourself and others.
Remember: Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~ Anais Nin.
If this has got you curious about how courageous you are in work and life, here are some further Resources to develop your Courage:
ONLINE TRAINING: Gain the Courage to Step out of Your Comfort Zone In the Happenista Project 2
WEBINAR: Taking Charge of Your Life: enter you name and email address to access it free of charge immediately [45 mins]
WEBINAR: Tackling Difficult Conversations enter your name and email address to access it free of charge immediately [45 mins]
BOOK: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
PODCAST: How to Say No [23 mins]
PODCAST: Taking a Leap of Faith [27 mins]
VIDEO: Would you Follow You [5 mins]
BLOG POST: 4 ways to face your fears [2 mins]
EVENTS The Happenista Retreat is the perfect 1 or 2 day transformational space to increase your self-awareness, become more aware of your strengths and development areas.
This blog is part of a series of articles on leadership qualities. You can find links to others here.