Courage is the backbone of leadership. Leadership is grounded first in character, not in intelligence or competence. Having courage to stand up for what you believe is right is an important part of living your values, which define your character.
I have been thinking a lot lately about why I avoid conversations that are difficult to have. I believe the vast majority of those reasons are based in fear: fear of conflict, fear of failure, fear of upsetting someone, fear of looking bad, and fear of criticism. The consequences of giving in to fear are poor relationships and diminished effectiveness.
As a reaction to fear, we often respond by becoming silent, avoiding the problem, blaming others, or becoming angry or frustrated. We can choose to turn from the fear and be ruled by it or we can face it and run our own lives. With heart and courage, we can take a stand. We can choose to act in the right regardless of risk and fear. We can make a stand for relationships and outcomes that are built on integrity. This is not about someone else doing the right thing. We have to start with ourselves. We honor someone when we respectfully address wrongs, and we honor ourselves at the same time.
I had to find the courage to talk with a coworker about a tough exchange we had recently. I asked to meet with him and said, “When you said ___, I felt disrespected.” He replied with, “You’re being silly and overreacting.” I said, “This was not easy for me to say and I am sure not easy for you to hear. A professional relationship with you is important to me. I want to find a better way to communicate in similar situations.” I will likely need to have additional conversations in the future, but it’s worth it to stand up for myself and how I expect to be treated. The conversation took courage and practice. I worked out exactly what I would say to him and how I would say it and even practiced it out loud. I took responsibility to improve the situation and conquered my fear. He may or may not change, but the point is, I feel good about standing up for what I believe is right.
I bet you have someone with whom you need to have a conversation. Take some time and think about what you could say that is respectful and courageous. Even if it’s not the perfect conversation on your first attempt, try anyway. I bet you will surprise yourself.