For talented leaders with experience and wisdom, the ability to do something is less of a challenge than the courage to do it sometimes. The COURAGE to lead is often more of a challenge than the CAPABILITY to lead. Putting courage IN is both a skill and a privilege when it comes to shaping leaders who shape the future.
Over the last week, I have spoken to over 1500 people in three states and across three diverse sectors. From an auditorium to a classroom and also a boardroom. Rooms of several hundred and rooms of 5. On each occasion, there were supremely talented leaders present. Leaders in education, business, not for profit, and faith based enterprises. All with surprisingly similar questions about the future, ideas, and opportunities. Few of these leaders have a guarantee on the outcome or a crystal ball on the way the story unfolds. They were more focused on having clarity rather than certainty (I wrote about the importance of clarity here) and in doing so to make the best decisions in the most efficient possible time with the most favourable outcome.
They are skilled leaders. They know what to do. They have the ability to communicate what needs to happen by who and by when. It’s what happens next that makes all the difference.
What they needed most was courage. Accessing courage is core to making leadership decisions. Being the one who gets to put courage INto a teammate, colleague, boss or friend is a privilege. The word encouragement comes from the French word in and courage “ecnoragier – to put in courage, to make strong, to hearten”. The Middle English spelling of the word was actually ‘incourage.’ It’s delightful to GET encouraged; it is magical to BE the encourager.
Putting courage in, takes focus and intentionality. Its foundation is in a commitment to serve with attention out (attribution to Matt Church) and have the other person and their success your only focus. It’s guided by an action focus. Courage gets things done.
To be a leader that puts courage in means you’ll be forensic about the following three intentions:
- Observation – this says “I see”
- Empathy – this says “I care”
- Declaration – this says “I say”
Leaders committed to putting courage in, in a way, observe what’s going on in the world of their team. They notice. Larry Dossey said, “Become a good noticer. Pay attention to the feelings, hunches, and intuitions that flood your life each day. If you do, you will see that premonitions are not rare, but a natural part of our lives.” Leaders see the peace or hurriedness, the confidence or concern, the steady pattern of behaviour or the more disrupted way of being.
Leaders look for this in the life of their team not to catch them but to help them. They follow through with empathetic conversation. The last step breaks through to giving the person the confidence to launch. Leaders speak something life-giving and authentic to people, something that INcourages them.
Here’s how you put courage IN as a leader:
- When you see and care you get connection.
- When you see and say you give empowerment.
- When you care and say you give validation.
To be an ‘encoragier’ build these practices into your leadership:
- Be a noticing leader. See what others don’t see.
- Be an affirming leader. See the possibility in the reality.
- Name the motive. Say “I can see how caring, helpful, positive, disciplined, you’re intending to be.”
- Be a life-giving leader. Say what others won’t say.
- Be a supportive leader. Go where others won’t go.
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.