“We need to be more courageous”.  These words could have been expressed by any group or couple. And last week it was at the heart of a sustainable business discussion on innovation.

Indeed, who doesn’t want to be a little, or a lot more courageous in their working or personal life?

When we talk about leadership action, this is the moment between deciding and acting.  Have we got the courage to step up into this leadership vacuum? To put our heads above the parapet. And say the unspoken. To go against the status quo in order to change things for the better?

What does it take for us to do that?

Courage from its Latin root ‘cor’ indeed, comes from the heart.  So, more often than not, we have to turn to its apparent opposite, vulnerability. As researcher storyteller Brene Brown says,  “I can tell you as a researcher, 11,000 pieces of data, I cannot find a single example of courage, moral courage, spiritual courage, leadership courage, relational courage.  I cannot find a single example of courage in my research that was not born completely of vulnerability”.

But most of the time, we are creating elaborate strategies to defend against our vulnerability. To keep us strong or give the impression that we are.  We wear our masks and use our words and learned behaviours to protect and shield ourselves . And guard our heart from being exposed and hurt.

In her 2010 TED talk, Brown talks of how we numb our emotions. How we try and make the uncertain certain. And the way we perfect and pretend. All of which closes us off from really connecting.  And so, she offers another way. To let ourselves be seen. And to love with our whole hearts. To practice gratitude and joy. And to believe we are enough.

Wild courage

When we expose and engage our undefended heart, as Elle Harrison writes in Wild Courage, we honour our wildness. We open ourselves up to a renewed sense of energy, power and safety. And gain trust and integrity in our relationships. More often we exhibit greater compassion and generosity as leaders.  We have the ability to compassionately acknowledge our (often destructive) impact on the planet. And so we seek out new, sustainable ways of living and working.

Listening to our heart, we nurture and build its confidence.  We realise courage is not being fearless but going into the unknown in spite of those fears.  Indeed, you may find yourself putting your hand on your heart. Thanking those fears for keeping you safe and whispering to them, “but I am going to do it anyway”.



  • On Being with Krista Tippett, Brené Brown, The Courage to Be Vulnerable, Original Air Date, November 22, 2012 https://onbeing.org/programs/brene-brown-the-courage-to-be-vulnerable-jan2015/
  • Brené Brown (2010) The Power of Vulnerability.  TED talk http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html
  •  Harrison, E. (2011) Wild Courage: A Journey of Transformation for You and Your Business, Watkins Publishing, UK. Chapter 5 (pp: 107-132)
  • This article was also gifted to www.impactinternational.com 
  • Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash


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