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7 Traits Of Courageous Leaders


Kyle Hermans is Founder and CEO of Be Courageous, a global consultancy, unlocking breakthroughs in culture, tech, strategy and innovation.

We all know there are certain attributes universally celebrated and admired, like kindness, honesty and loyalty. Perhaps less discussed, but equally important and unanimously treasured when it’s achieved, is courage.

Courage gives us strength. Courage opens doors. Courage saves lives. Courage helps us grow in small and big ways.

Everyone from a college graduate entering the workforce for the first time to a world leader running a country must act with courage, not just once but repeatedly. Being courageous is a key component of strong leadership. But what exactly is courage, and how can we access it?

Like so many complex psychological human characteristics, courage can be difficult to nail down. On the surface, courage seems like one of those “I know it when I see it” concepts.

In my twenty years spent facilitating and coaching innovation, creativity, strategy and leadership programs, and in partnership with Dr. Glenn Geher of the Psychology Department of the State University of New York at New Paltz, I’ve identified behavioral attributes that often correlate with a person’s access to their courage.

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Each attribute has influential effects on organizational culture at all levels. Fostering these attributes in your own life (at work and beyond) and within your team can help you lead toward the courageous future you’re striving to achieve.

Seven Traits Of The Courageous

1. Intentionality: With constant demands and pressures for your attention and time, being able to set healthy boundaries, say no when necessary and be mindful about working on what matters most fosters courage.

2. Purpose: A person who has strong clarity on their “why,” and who intentionally aligns their actions with their calling, has a higher likelihood of overcoming fear and achieving courageous goals.

3. Curiosity And Openness: Courageous people tend to be open to possibilities and diverse perspectives. They’re able to lean into the unknown to seek answers.

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4. Commitment: Courage is more easily developed in someone who can stay focused and maintain momentum on a daily basis toward their dream, no matter the challenges and obstacles.

5. Embracing Risk: Courage requires taking intentional risks. And the bigger the risk, the more courage it takes (and the bigger the outcome can be). Those who understand the importance of facing fear and being vulnerable, who accept that falling and getting up again is part of the journey, tend to have quicker access to their courage.

6. Adaptability: People who are able to adapt to change, embrace feedback, navigate new environments and un-learn the human tendency to lean toward comfort and predictability demonstrate a higher capacity for courageous decision making.

7. Acceptance: The sooner you can embrace what is and let go of expectations you’ve attached to particular outcomes, the faster you can navigate life with more courage.

The Bottom Line

These traits exist within all of us to varying extents. Courage lives within us, even when we don’t feel brave. Courage is not only a noun but a verb. Anyone can “courage” a scary next step, courage their integrity, courage their future. Choosing courage as an action leads to personal growth and positive change. One way you can tap into courage at any time is to ask yourself, “How can I courage this moment?”

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To work on your “courage muscle,” dedicate the next month to being courageous. Every day, schedule time and plan for courageous acts big or small in your calendar. Each courageous act feeds the next. Take notice. Watch how confident and empowered you’ll feel and how much more you’ll accomplish when you’re not held back by fear.

Being a courageous leader means strength, creativity, intellect and embracing uncertainty. It means maintaining a positive attitude, being willing to take risks for the greater good, adapting to ever-changing conditions and remaining curious about your team and what they can accomplish without preconceived limits.


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