Over the last 5 years, I have been learning how to be a Leader. Leadership is tough to learn because it requires failure, feedback, reflection and time to implement new behaviours. The loop requires you to have humility, and be consistently open to feedback on being better.
Last night I sat and watched Brene Browns Netflix program on courage and I came away feeling pretty vulnerable and surprised. I realised that over the last few years, through learning to become a leader I had, in fact, lost my courage.
This was a profound moment for me. When I was in my 20’s, I had enough courage to bag and sell on eBay. How can I be a leader if I have no courage? Where had my courage gone? But more importantly, why had it left?
I sat in silence and then spoke to my husband about it. I wanted to share it with you because I believe it may resonate with someone out there. If this can help one person, then it’s worth the time for me.
Perfect or die
The business landscape suffers no fools. You are only as good as your last transaction and everything you do and say is on show for scrutiny, judgment opinion and analysis. For me, I know I can’t hide anywhere; no matter where I turn I am being assessed on all fronts. The stakes are high. One wrong move, one wrong word could lead to big losses and detrimental failure. This pressure has been a slow poison on my courage.
My intention for my business and the people I work with is for both business and people to have immense success through realising our vision. To achieve this, obviously I need to be the best CEO I can be. The best leader I can be.
In my pursuit, I have opened myself up to feedback and the guidance from people whom I deem wiser than me. The act of accepting feedback to better yourself can be soul-crushing and can take time to rebuild and re-establish confidence. I have been quite vulnerable during this period of growth. I have had uncertainty in my decisions, I have felt emotionally exposed so I can learn and as a result, I have been tentative in making the bold risky moves. I went from playing a really big game and crushing it to playing a medium game and not being as risky as I was a bit unsure if it would land me where I wanted.
I better not say that, it might hurt someone
I better not do that, it might put people off
I better not make that decision, I’ll wait for someone else to
So in my pursuit for perfection and success, I have in fact lost my courage to play the big game. Desiring perfectionism to make the perfect decision to get the perfect result, to be the perfect Leader. It's bull shit and exhausting.
I talk a lot about building your inner strength so you don’t need validation from the outside world. I see courage to act very different from needing validation to act. Not needing validation is reflective in people with self-assurance. They still might not be playing at 100%.
This is about going all out even if you have no idea what you are doing. Sometimes (most times), I have no idea what I am doing. I am a seasoned head hunter and a novice CEO. I’m learning as I go. I’m sure when I am 50 I would have been around the block a few times, I’ll be able to reference plenty of stories to help me make quick and good decisions without hesitation. But I am 37 and my reference material is a bit light so in the meantime I am going to have to suck it and see. Play as big as I can and be a heart-centered leader that cares.
Having courage is about jumping in the arena even if you know you’re not going to win. Choosing the bold risky moves, showing your emotion and going for what you want even if you know you are going to suck at it. Telling someone how you feel. Asking for that promotion. Giving someone difficult feedback when their behaviours are off. This all takes courage. If you stop trying because you know that the possibility of failure awaits then slowly but surely you will lose your courage.
What would happen if you just played hard even when the stakes are high and accepted failure as a possible option?
Failure is a close friend of mine. I’ve learned most of my business mindset through failure and feedback. Although in NLP we say “there is no failure, only feedback”, this is a mindset to respect the learnings out of every situation. There is however a point where what you are doing doesn’t work and you need to stop.
Is the courage back?
Moving into this morning, I am hopeful to call on my courage today and challenge myself. My commitment is this; I won’t be taking feedback and opinions from people that aren’t playing in the arena with me. It’s easy to point fingers, throw judgment and criticise when you are a spectator. Spectator commentary has been silenced. This one action will create the space for my courage to come back into its glory. I chose to play this game of life at 100%, how that extrapolates, good or bad, I also fully accept.
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