‘Born ready?’: courage

In the last ‘Born Ready’ blog, I explored the quality of curiosity and how we could benefit from learning to value this quality as we face increased leadership challenges in our sector. This week I’d like to think about another child-like quality; courage.

When I was nine years old, my brother and I had been to the tip and salvaged four large pram wheels. I was so excited! After what felt like months of searching we had finally found the only missing elements to our home-made Go Kart. We fixed the axles to the old wooden door, secured an old blue rope/steering device to the front axle and headed for ‘The Hill’. The Hill was notorious, it’s where anybody who was anybody went when it snowed. They took on The Hill with bin lids, dinner trays, rubber rings, and the occasional sledge. But this was the height of the summer holidays, we were going to set a new standard of bravery tackling The Hill on a homemade Go Kart! I couldn’t wait until we were back at school – we would be heroes! I sat at the top of the hill, gripping the steering rope so tight it was sore. Wearing nothing more than my shell suit to protect me, I gave the nod to my brother to push me over the precipice. My heart was racing so fast, like it knew something that I didn’t…

I’m told that I made it to the bottom. I don’t remember it as well my brother. Last I recall he was shouting at me to use the soles of my plimsolls as brakes. Ah yes, brakes! Perhaps the pram wheels weren’t the only thing missing…

I have learned to be cautious, to assess risk and make informed decisions based on the information that’s available to me. But have I become too cautious?

This might not be the most inspiring story to demonstrate my point, but my point remains. All of these years later I wouldn’t dream of returning to The Hill with a homemade Go Kart. I have learned to be cautious, to assess risk and make informed decisions based on the information that’s available to me. But have I become too cautious? Does this same risk assessment prevent me from being brave, from speaking my truth in situations where I may be a lone voice, and from making unpopular decisions even though I know with confidence that they’re the right decision for the organisation?

In trying to find an example of where I have demonstrated courage recently, I asked some of my colleagues for examples of where I have led with courage. This feedback revealed the big differences that I have effected as a result of being willing to take appropriate risks, to challenge the status quo, and to make ‘tough decisions’. The feedback also revealed that courage manifests in small moments, like in being more open and vulnerable with my colleagues.

As our sector faces increasing challenges, both in number and complexity, it’s vital that we lead with the courage of our childhood, and true to our authentic selves. In the next blog I’ll explore the quality of ‘authenticity’ and how being true to our real self can enable us to be more courageous.

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