As human beings, we are hardwired to avoid pain and would rather seek out comfort over feeling uncomfortable. How many times have you avoided a difficult conversation because it makes you feel awkward? Have you ever steered away from giving honest feedback, but chose the “suck-up” approach instead? What about circumventing the truth, making up a story in your head instead?
It takes courage and the willingness to be vulnerable, to lead an authentic life. To show up and lean into these moments that make you feel uncomfortable. And it is often here, in these brave moments, where we grow and learn, and create growth for the people around us.
We find many excuses in every day moments to avoid feeling uncomfortable. But it is in these moments that you can begin to challenge yourself and ask: What will I choose today? Courage or comfort? We all have different reasons for falling back into our safe comfort zones; “I did not want to cause offence,” “a little white lie seems kinder than the truth,” “I’d rather not know – it would not change the outcome in any event.”
It’s easy to avoid risk, to play it safe. But while you’re doing this, you are hiding your truth, suppressing your voice and typically end up regretting the things you did not do.
Call to courage
Julia Kerr-Henkel and I recently hosted a Dare to Lead™ introductory session where we spoke about vulnerability, shame and being brave. You need to be willing to feel vulnerable and have the courage to show up, to face the fear of failure and regret. I was so touched by the calls to courage that some of the attendees shared:
- I want to see the oncologist and find out exactly what my cancer stage is.
- I will work out how my move to Cape Town is going to unfold – even though my business is in Johannesburg.
- I am going to have a difficult conversation with someone I have to retrench.
- As a leader, I always skirt the truth, side-stepping around the issue, giving vague feedback rather than being honest. I will embrace the mantra that “clear is kind” to be a better leader.
My personal call to courage took me by surprise the very next evening. I attended the Women in Finance event in Cape Town, only to be asked a few minutes before the event started to stand in for the guest speaker who could no longer attend. The audience was 80+ people and I had not prepared anything! I chose courage over comfort and spoke for 45 minutes! Choosing courage over comfort has become my new mantra.
I’d like to share an exercise from Brené Brown’s book, Dare to Lead, that may help you answer the call.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” – Joseph Campbell.
- What is your personal call to courage as a leader?
Your answer must be specific, for example, I want to be braver giving constructive feedback.
- What is the cave you fear to enter?
Naming the “cave” we fear to enter helps us own our fears and even takes some of its power away. It is an inward confrontation, and you have to give yourself permission to enter the cave and fight the battle. This will be an uncomfortable place to enter, and you may be faced with your personal demons, your fears and your vulnerability.
- What do you need to do better to lead with courage?
The final step is building the skills needed to walk into the arena. Try new behaviors and experiences. Remember that you will fail, you will fall, but get back up, lean in and try again.
It’s all about showing up and having the courage to better serve the people around you!
Remember, always be inspired, be brave and be on purpose,