courageous leaders

How To Be A More Courageous Leader by Peter Dhu

We have all heard of situational leadership, authentic leadership, emotional leadership, and influential leadership. A less commonly used leadership term, but equally important, is that of courageous leadership.

Courageous leadership is the area that I specialise in and fortunately courage is a trait that can be taught to all leaders. I help leaders overcome fear and be more courageous in their leadership style and practice. An MBA or Masters in Leadership gives people knowledge and skills, but if courage is lacking, then the leadership style will remain constrained, safe and possibly lacking in innovation and creativity – both of which require risk taking and courage.

An article entitled “Courage As A Skill”, by Kathleen K. Reardon in the Harvard Business Review states that courage is an essential leadership trait that all leaders require. It also suggests that it is a skill that is often lacking in today’s leaders.

Aristotle said that “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor”.

Being courageous will help you become a more effective and successful leader. Below is a 4-step SAFE process to help leaders become more courageous in their leadership practise.

1. Set Stretch Goals

Courageous leaders set stretch goals for themselves and their teams. These are goals that make them feel uncomfortable; goals that may be difficult to achieve. But courageous leaders set targets and goals that are just a little bit harder to achieve. Your alternative is to set small achievable goals that you know you’re going to achieve. And with this, you just have a lesser level of growth and a lesser commitment with your team. Because you’ve set a goal where no one is stretched and no one is going to fail, everyone is safe and your achievement as a team and as an organisation is limited. Stretch goals on the other hand are uncomfortable, but they are how you accelerate your team’s performance and growth.

2. Allow for failure

Today, leaders and people in general, are risk adverse. As we try out new things and as we stretch ourselves or decide to do things differently, we don’t know what the outcome will be. This is unfamiliar territory. And one of the outcomes could be an unexpected hiccup or unexpected failure. Courageous leaders allow for this failure within themselves. For them, it’s not the failure that matters, but the deep learning process that comes from that failure. What did I learn from this? What can I do differently? How am I going to adapt and adjust with this new knowledge to make the next go a success? This is why courageous leaders accept failure into their lives.

Courageous leaders also allow their team to fail. So when you give a team a stretch goal and they fall short or are unable to achieve it, courageous leaders allow that. Once again it is about the deep learning. Most leaders will tell their team off for any mistakes or failures and come down on them hard. As a result, the team is less likely to take those risks in the future. So courageous leaders allow for failure within themselves and allow for failure within their team.

3. Face your fears front on

Courageous leaders will recognise that they have weaknesses and fears. This may be self-doubt, impostor syndrome, fear around public speaking, fear of failure but courageous leaders do not avoid those fears. They will hit those fears front on. They will do the work needed to overcome that fear.

Non-courageous leaders, on the other hand, stay in their comfort zone and will find alternative ways of doing those things that they fear. For example, a newly promoted leader may fear public speaking. A courageous leader will tackle this fear front on and master public speaking. A less courageous leader will communicate via email, they will use power point presentations and they will use meetings rather than a formal presentation to convey new information. Leaders need to face their fears front on.

4. Encourage creativity and innovation

Courageous leaders will give their staff, their team permission to fail, permission to try things differently, permission to have a go, permission to look at a problem in a different way. This allows for creativity and innovation to thrive. As part of the creativity and the innovation process, courageous leaders will also allow their team to disagree, to dissent with what the leader has said. They’ll allow their team to challenge and say, “I don’t think that’s the best way. How about we try it this way.”

If you want to encourage creativity and innovation, you need to allow your team to be honest, to give you feedback and to disagree with your ideas. The reverse of this is the leader who surrounds themselves with Yes men and Yes women. Their teams’ only response is, “Yes that’s a good idea.” As a result, the creativity and the innovation is limited to that of the leader or the manager. Because everyone is just going to agree and say, “Great idea. Yes, let’s do it” because they’re afraid or they don’t have permission to bring their own ideas, their own creativity and innovation to the workplace.


So this is a SAFE 4-step process to help leaders be more courageous.

S – Set stretch goals

A – Allow for failure

F – Face your fears front on

E – Encourage creativity and innovation


If as a leader you do these 4 steps, you will become a more courageous leader and you will create more courageous team members. You will embrace the idea of being courageous and taking risks within the organisation to help it grow, innovate and stay ahead of the competition.

If you would like to hear more about courage and leadership go to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *