Wednesday, 24 October 2012 16:24

How to be a ‘Courageous Leader,’ as Presented at NACE

Two strong women presented “Courageous Leadership” at NACE in New Orleans on Oct. 12. Sponsored by WIN, Women’s Industry Network, Denise Caspersen, ASA Collision Division Manager, and Melissa Miller, CARSTAR Sr. Operational Manager, talked with a group of women about what it takes to be brave in the workplace and in their lives.

Having courage is not the same as being fearless. Courage is the ability to do the right thing, despite feelings of fear or discomfort when facing situations of pain, risk, opportunity, uncertainty, hardship or intimidation.

Caspersen and Miller described three different types of courage and discussed the impact fear has on personal and organizational performance, and how by tapping into your own ‘courage history’ you can use your past to strengthen your future.

“We’re not all born with courage, but we’re born with the capacity to be courageous,” Caspersen said.

However, acting with courage is often avoided because of fear, because it’s easier, people are afraid of embarrassing themselves or they don’t want a confrontation. But the benefits could result in growth, better communication, advancement, innovation and happier employees.

The cost of fear is high. According to Human Resource Executive Magazine (2008), a third of U.S. employees waste at least 20 hours of work time each month complaining about their bosses. Stress-related illnesses account for 1/3 of worker absenteeism, and 37% of American workers report being bullied on the job. Fearful workers are twice as likely to be depressed and 33% are more likely to report exhaustion and sleep disorders.

Ways that employees display fear in the workplace could include hostility, hiding mistakes, being distracted, and playing it safe versus taking a creative approach.

Ways to combat fear include looking for ways to build your confidence, not obsessing about things that frighten you, gathering facts, seeking mentoring and developing new skills.

“If we can address fear, little by little, every day, it becomes a habit,” said Caspersen.

Caspersen and Miller asked the group of women what they thought courage was and the answers were varied: willing to take a risk, standing up for yourself, standing up for your beliefs, finishing what you started, not giving up, speaking your truth, and being true to yourself.

Caspersen pointed out that we often make mistakes to learn by. Something her parents told her still rings loud today: “You always have a choice, but you have to live with the outcome.”

When considering taking a risk, consider these factors: passion, purpose, principle, prerogative, and profit. These are the right reasons to take a risk. Can you suffer through the anguishing moments that accompany ‘right risks’ while caring intensely? Can you harness that passion and stay focused and headed in the right direction? Do you have the right set of values? Do you have the power to choose? And, profit, is only to be considered lastly.

Three different types of courage were described as: ‘try,’ ‘trust’ and ‘tell.’ Those who ‘try’ step up and make the first attempts to take action. Those who ‘trust’ follow the lead of others and let go of control. Those who ‘tell’ are those who speak out, assert one’s voice, and tell the truth. And there are always risks. Your actions may harm others. Other people’s actions may harm you. Or, you could be cast out of the group for truth telling.

“The ‘tell’ type of courage can be the most difficult as you may say things the other person doesn’t want to hear,” said Miller. “There is always a difference between being respectful and being offensive. Always make it about the process, not the person.”

Caspersen and Miller also described two leadership styles. The first is called ‘spillers’ — those who rely on fear as a motivator, are negative during times of challenge, or who discourage others who try to grow.

The other leadership style is ‘fillers’ — those who build other people’s confidence, provide support during challenges, and encourage others to grow.

Which kind of leader are you?

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