Developing Courage


It has been defined as strength in the face of pain, grief or fear.

There is no doubt that great leaders are courageous leaders. They inspire employees, energize customers, and position their companies for success. They take risks, they make decisions with the potential for revolutionary change, and they boldly stand up for what is right and just.

But more importantly, I think courageous leaders help others to become courageous. They model, mentor and support their employees when pain, grief or fear otherwise threaten their strength and resolve.

It’s not too hard to imagine what employees could be afraid of at work; below is a quick list of the things I was afraid of just this week:

  • Failure
  • Looking stupid
  • Retaliation or Pay Back
  • Offense
  • Discomfort
  • Change

I imagine my employees are sometimes afraid of these things too, and I believe it is my job to help them break through.

Where would I start?


First and foremost, I have to be trustworthy. If my employees don’t trust me, all future efforts to inspire courage will fail. That being said, there is no time like the present to work on building trust. Here’s how I try to do that:

  • Being honest
  • Following through
  • Being authentic
  • Being inquisitive and appreciative when people share
  • Admitting failure or mistakes
  • Apologizing when necessary
  • Being helpful
  • Showing concern for others

Next, I have to assure my employees that regardless of what happens, they will be all right. I have to clearly articulate that even if that which was feared happens, things will be ok. I may try to suggest that things won’t be as bad as what is feared, that the “harm” can be repaired, or that the reward will be greater than the cost. Furthermore, I need to assure my employees that regardless of what happens, I will still be there, figuratively or literally, to support them.


Patience isn’t in my nature but it isn’t about me; it’s about what my employees need. Therefore, I need to show some restraint. I can’t step in and do things myself nor can I can’t delegate work to someone else simply because I am anxious to see it completed. I can’t offer up my own solutions before others have a chance to voice their ideas. I can’t, for the sake of speed and accuracy, create such a controlled environment that creativity, risk and development are therein stifled. In a nutshell, if I try to rush, I’ll decrease the chances for my employees to be courageous.


Even small acts of courage need to be celebrated. I have found that even the slightest recognition such as small festivities, simple gestures or gifts, casual observances, and similar things go a long way in encouraging additional courageous behavior. Furthermore, when done formally and/or on a larger scale, celebrations for breaking through fear have a significant and positive impact on the overall work culture and can result in increased innovation, creativity and team engagement.

As I said earlier, great leaders demonstrate courage but in addition, they help their employees be courageous. I follow a straightforward and authentic process:

  1. Be trustworthy
  2. Make assurances
  3. Demonstrate patience
  4. Celebrate
  5. Repeat

It’s not fancy, but it is effective. Give it a go, and see if it helps your employees break through what has been holding them back.

About the Author

Heather Kinzie, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, GPHR, serves as the Chief Operating Officer for The Strive Group. With more than 20 years of organizational and workforce performance experience, Kinzie offers consulting, coaching, content development and ltraining to clients. She oversees a team of experts who utilize a broad, systematic approach to problem solving and consultation. Recognizing the critical importance of leadership, communication and effective collaboration among teams, Kinzie is committed to helping clients improve communication, engagement and organizational performance.

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