As I child I woke up during the night. Shadows lurked in my bedroom corners and smirked at me. I rarely went to my parents. If I did, I stood up on the bed and made one giant leap to the floor and ran. You see, there were alligators under my bed. Yes, who would’ve guessed? Alligators in the Arctic Circle.
~ Maria Lehtman
Are people born with courage?
Unless you tell me you know a kid who was born with lustrous black hair, stars in their eyes, a giant S on their suite and a cape on, I would argue that no one is born with courage. Every trait we demonstrate comes with a learning curve. We are certainly both with character traits, and those can include elements that courage is made of. However, courage is nothing but a thought and a will until the moment of truth comes. The question is: do you show that courage then, or balk.
For a long time, I would have said that I was a kid with serious issues about darkness. And there was nothing brave about it. Now that I look back at my childhood, I realize, I was against impossible odds. First of all, I dreamt non-stop. I still do and my dreams only keep getting more lucid, detailed and vivid. And 99% of my childhood dreams were nightmares. I woke up in the middle of the night often with my heart racing, ears ringing and with a feeling of sheer terror. Despite that, I might get up from the bed, or force myself to get back to sleep eventually. On very, very rare occasions I would call for my parents or go to wake them up.
Secondly, I did not have a calm childhood. I was well looked after and liked because of my friendly nature. However, we had the infamous hippo in our livingroom. And the hippo was demanding, unpredictable, loud, and violent even if not the latter towards me personally. So reflecting back – I was actually very brave sticking with my books and reading light as a night time support, and stubborn not to shout out for help despite the nightmares. Courage is a mindset and relative in every way because it cannot be measured by a median. It is what you overcome within your mind.
What makes you a leader with courage?
When we grow up the nightmares tend to follow us. The traits and skills we have inherited, are reinforced by time and habits. If and when that happens with negative aspects like fear we need to build up coping mechanisms to reverse them. For years it will feel like you are wading in deep snow, but progress will get easier in time. You might recall from my earlier blogs the reinforcing behavioral pattern:
In other words, what you practice becomes part of your character. If you consistently choose to stand up for your values, what you believe is right for you and your team, becomes your leadership quality. Your quality then defines what types of jobs and what kind of career you will build – it begins to define your future. Now, give these steps a few seconds to sink in.
Your thought in the morning about what you need to do can eventually define your entire career. You can define the outcome. I know some of you would like to argue with that.
I am not saying that your circumstances would not change. I am also not saying that you can influence everything that happens around you. What I am saying is that you can define who you are and to an extent, how your leadership skills are viewed by others.
Let’s take a simple example. Your high performing team member comes in to say they have had it. The working hours are crazy, and they are exhausted, they want to leave. Do you say, if you cannot take this job, how can you take on anything else either? Do you do what you can to help, but remain thinking it is just a phase, he/she will get over it in time. Or do you look for reasons how the situation came to this point, and negotiate a way forward with the team member and with your superiors and HR? Do you take a stand?
And do you take into account the very essence that a person is made of? They too might have alligators in their life they need to tackle with, and perhaps they are just looking for their nightlight. They also need someone who listens, understands and shows courage. Someone who says, “I am glad you came to me with this! Let me help you. Things will turn out alright if you work with me on this one. Let’s figure out the steps we need to take.”
I can tell you, taking care of people takes courage. You will never regret having taken the time, even if you did not win all the battles. People come and go, and you soon realize what situations can be negotiated with, how and when it is the right time to let go, and when a campaign is needed to stand up for what you believe is right.
Your path will not be easy, it may be a dirt road up a mountain or a congested highway but I guarantee, it will arrive at a far better place than not making the effort. Let your thought become your courage.
Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.