Leadership and Courage: Overcoming Fears

Shaun H. Ruff


Leadership and Courage: Overcoming Fears

Almost all executives are aware that leadership isn’t as glamorous as people think. Leaders are primarily responsible for making and executing tough decisions. 

Making difficult decisions frequently entails risking the pain or disagreement of others, which can lead to conflict and discomfort.

However, one of a leader’s most crucial traits is the confidence to address conflicts voluntarily. When this ability is weak, issues gradually get worse. This has been a recurrent topic in our study. It is simpler for us to smile and agree with others than it is to openly disagree and start a fight because of our brain wiring for empathy. As a result, a “culture of niceness” that unintentionally discourages individuals from presenting opposing viewpoints is a problem for many businesses. Even if everything appears to be wonderful on the surface—look at how cheerful and pleasant everyone is!—it is not. Inauthentic agreeability, on the other hand, hinders psychological safety, delays creativity, and lowers performance as a whole.

Based on the research collected for our newest book, mastering courage is essential to being a wise, compassionate leader. Because they can handle the challenging aspects of leadership in a humane manner, wise compassionate leaders are able to increase their team members’ levels of engagement, performance, loyalty, and well-being. Nevertheless, this isn’t how many people lead their lives. A leader does not always choose the courageous path, so what exactly prevents them from doing so?




Comfort is something we all seek as human beings. Our goal is to challenge ourselves and experience something new every day. It is actually our brains that are wired to stick with the easy path and not shake the boat because they are safer than making a big mistake.

We need to be courageous to overcome our comfort-seeking orientation. Fearlessness is not the same as courage. It is still possible to feel fear, concern, or dread even when we have courage. Courage, however, means overcoming taking action or engaging in a necessary confrontation requires the acceptance of our fear. We must cultivate and demonstrate bravery if we want to become more compassionate leaders.

Leadership that is wise and compassionate does not hide. There is no finger pointing or shirking of responsibility on their part. A difficult decision or hard thing is not avoided by them. It is instead their lives that are characterized by speaking out when necessary and living out their values.  When we are in our comfort zone, it is easy to forget about the world around us.

But in order to be genuinely great leaders, we must venture beyond of our comfort zones, accept our weakness, muster the strength to take on challenging tasks and deal with inevitable conflicts.




To become the finest leaders, we need bravery, but it’s also about how we use that courage. Being vulnerable is a brave act and the basis for choosing bravery above comfort. Being vulnerable, nevertheless, helps us to connect with others and understand things from their point of view. However, vulnerability is frequently viewed as a sign of weakness. Nobody loves to own their shortcomings. However, when we have the strength to be open and honest, we create the space for genuine human connection. We are not experts in every area as leaders. We err, and we don’t always know what is correct to do. We give folks a chance to see our humanity and humility when we are open and vulnerable. Others are given the chance to experience vulnerability as a result.

The next difficult step is to welcome conflict after you’ve exposed yourself to vulnerability. If you find it difficult to deal with disagreement, it will negatively affect your performance, the performance of your team or organization, and your career advancement. Many of us associate the word “confrontation” with negative emotions, but this doesn’t have to be the case. The tension between two or more parties based on divergent viewpoints, no matter how modest, constitutes the essence of a confrontation. The nature of confrontations might range from a quiet argument to addressing concerns of alleged harassment, bullying, or discrimination.

However, conflicts might be advantageous. They are essential for advancing understanding, fostering creativity, and enacting cultural change if they are properly handled. It’s crucial to understand that conflicts are not always bad in order to establish sensible, compassionate leadership. Only when they are handled carelessly or not at all do they turn negative. At their heart, disagreements are only the expression of two opposing viewpoints. We may learn and develop when we approach conflicts with bravery and an open mind. Confrontation should be viewed as an opportunity in this sense. Disagreements lead to new ideas, and new ideas frequently result in advancement.




You must first learn to control your fear and transform it into bravery if you want to rewire yourself for a more daring style of leadership. Asking yourself what your purpose is will help you discover courage. You may enter and remain in unpleasant situations with others by keeping in mind your purpose. It will be easier to deal with the issue if you are aware that your aim is good and that you want to help the individual. The following are six methods for growing bravery.




Even if the friction that leads to the confrontation is as easy as giving constructive criticism, it requires bravery to start a tough conversation or confront someone. To strengthen your bravery muscle, strive to experience discomfort on a regular basis.




Ask them how they feel about a brave talk an hour, a day, or a week afterwards. Examine whether or not it was beneficial to them. Pay close attention and take notes on what they say.




Maintaining the status quo when it has to be altered serves no one. If you deal with problems head-on rather than letting them simmer and fester, you’ll get through them more quickly and with less discomfort and disturbance. Speak out when necessary. Take the necessary action. And take pride in having the guts to start constructive change.




Your body frequently recognizes problems that require treatment before your intellect does. A strong tool is intuition. You should use the feeling that something isn’t right as a cue to take action. Ignored issues don’t go away on their own. Find the best course of action within, then take it.




Talk to a trustworthy colleague when you are having an especially difficult time dealing with a problem. Be open and honest about how challenging it is for you. They could have a smart or practical concept. But it’s more probable that you’ll benefit from just talking about your struggles. When we keep our fears to ourselves, attempt to ignore them, or bury them, they get stronger and more often hold us back. When we discuss it with others, our dread lessens and we feel relieved, which makes taking action easier. You may extend your viewpoint and improve your ability to handle the issue productively by talking with others and gaining their opinions.




Leading through change is one of the hardest things for leaders to undertake. To overcome opposition while others are uncomfortable demands bravery. Being brave demands endurance and tolerance. Understanding that others might not find it as simple to follow simply because you can make the leap is necessary. In this sense, intelligent compassion is understanding when to go on and having the fortitude to put up with the discomfort of allowing others to join the team before moving on.


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