Show Some Real Courage

by John Spence on · 7 comments

For the past few months I have been working on a new book I am writing on the key characteristics of effective leaders in today's new business world. As one might expect, COURAGE is one of the attributes that many people look for in a leader they would willingly follow. It seems reasonable that people would want their leader to be courageous, to take bold risks, to move forward with confidence…but there is another form of courage that might be even more important. The courage to be… vulnerable.

The courage, that as the leader, you do NOT have all of the answers, that you are not sure exactly what to do, that you might be wrong… that you need help. I know this flies in the face of what we think being a "courageous leader" is all about – but it is the truth. In today's fast-paced, information-intensive global economy no one has all the answers – no one can be successful alone – we all need help and we all need to courage to admit that without shame.

Let me also point out that nearly all of the highly successful people I have ever spent time around were disarmingly courageous in their willingness to admit their faults and ask for help. They never pretended to be experts in areas where they were not and eagerly sought out the wise counsel of the true experts.

So of course be bold, take BIG risks, show great courage in the face of difficult circumstances, but by all means also know when it is time to show an even great level of courage… the courage to admit that you need help!

by John Spence

John Spence is the author of "Awesomely Simple - Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action." He is an award-winning professional speaker and corporate trainer, and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America.
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

The Vizier March 7, 2012 at 9:32 am

Hi John,

I agree that a leader has to have many forms of courage. He needs to have the courage to make decisions. He needs to have the courage to see his decisions through. He needs to have the courage to take action at the right time at the right place and in the right way. And he needs to have the courage to ask for help and to delegate tasks to the best people possible.

Asking for help is never a sign of weakness. In Ancient China, the greatest leaders were those who were aware of their limitations. They were willing to ask for help from and to rely on experts to get the job done. If this meant having advisers to formulate strategies or generals to lead armies, the wise ruler would rely on such people.

Such wisdom is relevant today as it was in the past. It is impossible to know everything. It is better to know your limits and to rely on experts to help you to fulfill your goals. This is true courage and wisdom.

Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

Irving the Vizier
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Jen March 7, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Well said! I think having the courage to ask and learn WHERE to seek help, and open yourself up to vulnerability is just what draws me to great leaders and people who I adore!

Thank you so much for your insight! Great article:)
In Harmony,
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Kath Roberts March 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm

So true John, courage is as much about allowing yourself to be whole and that means acknowledging all aspects , the uncertain as well as the knowing confident stuff.
I think the more leaders are prepared to do this then the more we give others permission to be themselves and not feel inadequate in any way as a result.


Andrew Walker March 8, 2012 at 10:03 am

Always ready to take any risk, and make any mistakes, as long as you can stand up, it all needs courage. So that you can be a great leader in the future!
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Emily March 9, 2012 at 5:54 am

For some people (like me) it is extremely difficult to admit that they need help. When I am into this situation, I usually just think that I can not be an expert in a lot of different areas, and it is OK to ask for help. This usually helps.


Galen Pearl March 9, 2012 at 9:24 pm

I thought about this in two ways. As a law professor for 20 years, I was never afraid to tell my students when I didn’t know something. If someone asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to, I would say, “Great question–let’s find the answer together!” On the other hand, as the single parent of an autistic son, I was always embarrassed to ask for help. I wore myself out trying to do everything myself and never letting anyone see how hard it was. Your article highlighted these two side of my life so clearly. Great post.
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