31 Chapters
Medium 9781576752463

Principle 7: Have the Courage to be Courageous

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

116


The subject of our last principle (fear) and the subject of this principle (courage) go hand-in-hand. Fear is the predecessor, and instigator, of courage. Indeed, because courage is a response to fear, you can’t demonstrate courage unless you are afraid. Though people falsely assume that courage is about being fearless, in reality the opposite is true. Courage is completely full of knee-knocking, teeth-chattering fear. So rather than walk with the cocksure swagger of John Wayne, courage shakes with the insecure awkwardness of Barney Fife.

The difference between a coward and a courageous person is not that one is afraid and the other isn’t. To be sure, both are afraid. Rather, the difference is in how each responds to fear. To be a coward is to turn and run from fear when you are fully capable of confronting it, but unwilling to do so. Conversely, to be courageous is to stay and confront fear even though you are afraid, not with Neanderthal bravery, mind you, but by allowing yourself to stay present with all your fearful feelings and then to walk through them. Even though courage is full of fear, it takes the risk anyway. By definition then, courage means acting in the face of fear.

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Medium 9781576755013

Chapter 11 Courageous Living

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I shall not fear anyone on Earth.

Mahatma Gandhi, nonviolent revolutionary

Be Courageous!

Bill Treasurer, high-diving, Speedo-wearing, fear-carrying courage consultant

“You have cancer.”

Few words fill the brain with as much unsettling confusion as cancer. Pretty much everything my doctor said after that was a jumble. “Positive biopsy… tumors… unusual for your age … radical surgery…”

One comment did get through, however: “If you don’t treat this, you will die.”

There are advantages to running a courage-building company. Courage is an attractive subject, and it certainly has attracted some marquee clients to Giant Leap. Conversations become electrified when they turn to the subject of courage. It is a subject that pulls people forward and upward, 184 elevating them to higher ideals and standards. But there are disadvantages to running a courage-building company, too. Courage is a subject with considerable mass and gravity. My proximity to the subject seems to have attracted an unusually large number of challenging life experiences. I sometimes wonder if, when God found out I was going to devote my life to helping others to be more courageous, he thought, “Is that so? Then I guess Mr. Treasurer is going to need some lessons in that area. Angels, start the conveyor belt!”

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Medium 9781626568020

Chapter 1: Ain’t That a Kick in the Pants

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

CHAPTER 1

Isn’t it funny how obvious and oblivious are so close?
—Author unknown

My work with leaders sometimes involves inviting the leader’s direct reports to purposely kick him or her in the keister. One of the most effective ways of doing this is having the leader go through a 360-degree feedback process, where the people they are leading rate the leader’s style and performance. The raters often include the leader him- or herself and the leader’s boss(es), peers, and direct reports—hence a “360-degree” view. The feedback uses an anonymous survey consisting of quantitative data and qualitative (open-ended) questions. The idea is that people are likely to give more honest answers if they don’t feel threatened that the leader will retaliate against them for their honesty. A leader’s self-perception can be quite biased, so involving the broader perspective of others can be a useful development tool. While 360-degree surveys aren’t perfect, having administered hundreds of them over the years, I’ve seen them result in positive leadership change. Sometimes dramatically so.

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Medium 9781626568020

Chapter 10: Leading at the Point of Goodness

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

CHAPTER 10

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.
—Theodore Roosevelt

Leadership, as a topic, can be perplexing. As a leader, you are expected to be bold and calculated, passionate and reasonable, rational and emotional, driven and patient, principled and flexible, competitive and cooperative, strategic and tactical, and yes, confident and humble. Faced with all of these often conflicting factors, it’s enough to make you scratch your head and wonder, Where on earth do I start?

In my work with emerging leaders, I hear the question a lot. New leaders, especially, are flummoxed by all the divergent advice they get about what they should focus on to be a good leader. My advice to new leaders is simple: good leadership starts by being good. When it comes to the two words “good leader,” the first word brings about the second. You want to be a good leader? First concentrate on being a good person.

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Principle 6: Make Your Fear Work for You

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

104


The most common question asked of high divers is, “Are you afraid up there?” My response has always been that if you aren’t afraid, you’ll probably get hurt. High divers aren’t fearless. Rather, they are fear-enhanced, or enfeared. It is precisely this fear that heightens a diver’s awareness of his surroundings so he won’t make any mistakes. Divers often talk of having a “healthy respect for the ladder.” We respected the fact that at any time, the high diving gods could cause us to tumble out of control and come crashing down to Earth. Our respect was grounded in fear, and most diving injuries happened in fear’s absence. We knew that fear kept us safe. Indeed, we were more worried when we weren’t afraid than when we were. When leaping from the ladder, fear was a VIP passenger that always came along for the ride.

When you talk about risk, invariably you have to talk about fear. Risk, after all, has an intimate relationship with fear. Fear is the great risk inhibitor. We fear high places. We fear loss. We fear failure. We fear success. We fear rejection. We fear embarrassment. We fear commitment. We fear intimacy. We fear the unknown. And, of course, we fear fear. But the truth about fear is that we need it. Fear is the primary (and primordial) warning system that alerts us to danger. In threatening situations, fear jacks up our heartbeat and stimulates our senses to keep us from getting hurt. In well-proportioned measures, it can sharpen your focus, quicken your reflexes, enhance your performance, and even add to your excitement and enjoyment of the risk. The point is, fear is a powerful energy that, properly channeled, can make risk-taking an invigorating and rewarding experience. Indeed, fear-laden risks tend to be the most memorable once taken. For these reasons, and because relishing risk is partly a function of living in a fear-respectful way, every Right Risk-taker needs to be well versed in Right Risk principle 6: make fear work for you.

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