Courage: Leading the WayPosted on December 1, 2019

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Fear is one of the most debilitating emotions preventing effective leadership from developing and courageous cultures from thriving.  When fear rules us as leaders, we avoid tough conversations and giving honest feedback.  We avoid taking risks or putting our ideas out there for fear of being made fun of or failing.  We avoid conversations about diversity or inclusion for fear of saying something wrong.  We fear not being “perfect,” which can keep our teams locked in a safe box, not growing or trying new things.  Leading with courage is scary, messy and uncertain.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, is attributed to the quote “what stands in the way becomes the way.”  If we intend to become a high-reliability organization, we need leaders to have the courage to face the fear that stands in our way.  Courageous leaders bravely lead others to overcome, not succumb to those barriers. We must fearlessly lead the way through our own modeled behavior.

Unpacking fear and the effects courage, or the lack thereof, can have on leadership effectiveness is a personal leadership journey for me.  I had the pleasure of being introduced to Brene Brown, best selling author, and researcher, at a human resources conference last summer.  Her latest book, Dare to Lead, is a resource I have used to process this concept personally.   Over the next several weeks, I will reference this and other resources for leadership courage behaviors and how I might apply them to my life.  I hope you will do the same.  The blog series will explore the four categories of courageous leadership behaviors described below.

How can you do it? 

Courageous leaders “rumble” with vulnerability. Dealing with our fears and those of others requires someone to take the first step to “rumble.”  Rumble, in this strategy, refers to having a real conversation even if it is tough.  A courageous leader demonstrates their willingness to be vulnerable by remaining open, curiously listening and owning our junk we bring to the conversation. 

Courageous leaders live “into” their values. Daring leaders who live their values are never silent about hard things.  First, it is essential to identify what core values we have, but then living “into” them, or practicing them, will provide the strength to demonstrate behaviors that align with those beliefs.

Courageous leaders brave trust. Courageous leaders lead with integrity or chose courage over comfort.  Teams that serve with a leader they can trust have more confidence to take risks and innovate.

Courageous leaders own their own stories. Leaders that can own their stories of mistakes, failures, setbacks, and hurt have the power to write their ending, as opposed to the story owning them.

What questions about leading with courage would you like addressed during this blog series? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

6 Responses

stewartk December 2nd, 2019

What beliefs about leadership incline our brains to generate feelings of fear?
How can we change those mistaken beliefs?

Vicki Noel December 2nd, 2019

Thanks, Kendall. I will attempt to keep these questions in the forefront throughout this series and reflect on solutions as I process.

Rory Phillips December 2nd, 2019

Your comments are very thought-provoking Vicki. I have learned to “rumble” over the years, but I’ve not learned how to do it with finesse. My “rumbling” comes off as harsh and attacking at times. Thinking through rumbling comments and toning them down is my goal.
Regarding Dr. Stewart’s question above, an organizational culture that embraces challenges and the fall-out that comes from challenging is key to reducing fear. SOMC has this culture. The next barrier to overcome is our fear of wanting to be liked. I need to learn this skill. We once had a superintendent at Wheelersburg that would be very candid with folks and they would smile and love him afterwards. That is a key still that I need to learn.

Vicki Noel December 2nd, 2019

Thanks Rory. We all have our “stuff”. I’ll help you with the tone of your rumbles if you push me in the ring on occasion. How’s that? Ha!

Devin Miller December 2nd, 2019

I fear that what I believe in may negatively impact a person’s perception of me, and hinder that person’s ability to trust me. I do not believe you can thrive and grow in an environment where you are not trusted.
Living “into” your values will show everyone what you believe in. I am not afraid to be wrong. I am afraid that you will not accept me for who I really am.

Thank you for this topic Vicki. I look forward to learning more.

Valerie DeCam[ December 3rd, 2019

Hi Vicki,
Wow! Dare to lead. Dare to rumble. Dare to fail. Dare to be courageous. I dare myself to be better at this! Thank you for starting this conversation.


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