True Grit – Courage as a Skill

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear”. Mark Twain

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Research has identified competencies of successful leaders. However, there is one competency that is not necessarily mentioned as such. Perhaps because we don’t recognize it as a skill . Unless you have it, you will struggle to be a leader that can deliver business results.

It’s courage! I have long believed that Courage is a skill that can be developed and grown like any other EQ competency and that it is required for that leap from the ordinary, from the comfort zone, into the realm of extraordinary, of higher potential.

Courage is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one” or “strength in the face of pain”.

Day in and out we operate at a level of general comfort. Not many days challenge us to do something that frightens us, or requires us to be strong.

But no, I am wrong in that. For some, getting out of bed in the morning might require a level of courage, making that first step in the door of a gym, turning up at a networking event when you don’t know anyone, deciding to go back to school……. who knows what it takes for anyone to achieve anything?

But this much I know – the ability to do something that frightens us is absolutely within all of us.

I have a fear of heights, since forever. If I look at a movie where heights are involved, my legs shake and my stomach turns. A few years ago, as part of a leadership trip, I had to climb onto a great height and zipline down. I was terrified. My heart was pounding and I felt weak. I was torn between throwing up and passing out! My palms sweated. My heart was having palpitations. I shut my eyes and jumped!

Having done it, I was triumphant, and relieved. One tutor told me I had great courage, I just needed to use it more. That comment stuck with me…..and many times during my career I deliberately tapped into that reserve.

Only those of a certain age will remember the John Wayne movie, True Grit (although there was the inevitable remake)! Being able to persist in the face of difficult and set-back is what Grit is made of. Studies show that those who have it are more successful. Think of Olympic athletes, intrepid entrepreneurs, gifted musicians. “But that’s not me” I hear you cry! It’s not me either, but grit I can find from time to time, when it’s something that really matters to me.

How to develop Courage

  1.  Courage takes many forms, but it resides in our very core, in the depths of our selves. It takes a strong quality of mind or spirit to bring it to the surface. But you can.
  2. Just because you did something once, doesn’t mean you won’t feel afraid to do it again. However, the level of fear will diminish, even a tiny bit, so that if you keep doing it – over time it will be a bit easier. It could even become a habit, if you practice it long enough.
  3.  At the heart of fear is that feeling of discomfort. Not wanting to be recognized as a failure, or as someone who doesn’t agree with the majority, or perhaps it’s not wanting to look foolish, or arrogant, overtly important or just plain stupid! As children we were warned “not to make a show of ourselves”!
  4. Living with that feeling of discomfort is possible. The title of Susan Jeffers book “feel the fear and do it anyway” has often inspired me. So what if you look a bit silly, or if it doesn’t work out? Life is finite and can be short.  We mostly regret what we didn’t do, rather than what we did.
  5. Let there be no regrets! Ultimately, this is your journey and no one else will care or remember in 10 years time what you did or didn’t do.
  6.  The physiological effects of fear can be calmed. So, your heart is racing, your palms sweating and you feel nauseous! A couple of minutes of deep breathing allows your logical brain kick in and join forces with your emotional brain. Although your body still feels the stress factor you can calm your nerves and use that stress to give you energy.

Having the courage to lead, to step up to responsibility, to be accountable, to do your very best wherever you are at, can be developed by believing in your competence and practicing being courageous.

In the movie True Grit, Mattie Ross hires a crusty old marshall to find her father’s killer. She chooses Rooster Cogburn.

Why? Because he has True Grit – a reputation for “gittin” the job done no matter what!”

Dig deep and find yours!

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