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leadership is courageous and courage can be learned

Credit: American Nurse Today

I’m creating my summer reading list right, which is to say, I’m making a list of all the books I want to read while on vacation and will read, if I’m lucky, one of those books. On the top of my list is Educated by Tara Westover and the other is Brene Brown’s, Dare to Lead. I’ve always loved BrenĂ© Brown’s work, she really gets the whole vulnerability and imperfection thing that I’ve got going on lately. Her books, Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly have inspired a lot of thinking that has gone into this blog. So, being a leader, and being someone who gotten dirty in Brown’s proverbial gladiator ring, I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy Dare to Lead.

Here’s the thing they don’t teach you about leadership: you need courage, a lot of it. And sometimes, finding that courage can be challenging. There are difficult conversations (with oneself and others). There are difficult decisions that have to be made, trade offs and sacrifices. There are difficult messages that have be delivered. If you’re not courageous, it will be very hard and stressful to lead effectively.

Courage, comes from the Latin “cor” for heart. Corage is old French, courage is originally from Middle English, “denoting the heart, as the seat of feelings”. Courage then, comes from the heart, not the head. We think that one is courageous when they lead brashly or with conviction or confidence. This isn’t courage, it’s hubris. Courage then, is a set of teachable skills, this has become Brene Brown’s most recent work. She is teaching courage to leaders. How do you teach someone who has to lead others to be courageous? You show them how to be vulnerable. You help them show up as their “whole hearted selves”. I lead from the heart and sometimes that can be really tough. It can be tough on me because I care a lot about the work and the people I work with but it can also be tough because I can become reactive instead of thoughtful. This is my natural tendency and it’s not a bad thing, it just is. It’s just something I have to learn to watch and check at times.

I’m a courageous person because to be courageous is, by definition, “the ability to do something that frightens oneself” and, “strength in the face of pain or grief”. I don’t say this for praise, I say it as fact. I need to harness that courage at work as a leader, to do things that frighten me (e.g. things outside my comfort zone). But I’m hoping that BrenĂ©’s book will help me figure out how to harness my natural tendency to be emotional and by that I mean, outwardly demonstrative with my feelings, and at the same time, not succumb to those feelings or be overwhelmed by them (see post yesterday about emotional flooding/panic attacks). This is where the hard work in for me comes. And I look forward to that hard work because it scares me. And that I think makes me courageous. It makes you courageous too. Remember that you have shown strength in the face of pain or grief and you have probably at some point done something that frightens you. Courage mon ami, take heart. xo Janet

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