Courage - a key characteristic required in today’s workplace

"Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others." (Aristotle)

Ahead of the upcoming Moorhouse Barometer on Change, a number of articles have really resonated with me around courage as a key characteristic required in today’s workplace. With organisations facing unprecedented levels of change, courage is a key enabler to moving forward during uncertainty; equally, as individuals navigate their career in this environment, courage can be drawn on when making career-based decisions. 

Kathleen O'Connor and Emily Cloney, psychologists and researchers share their insights and findings on women’s careers via the London Business School and on making courageous career altering decisions. Reading this with the Barometer on Change in mind, I found that their recommendations could equally apply to organisations as a whole. 

Don’t box yourself in and use disruption as a pivot point – As individuals it is important not to limit yourself in career decisions, similarly organisations need to be courageous when adapting or moving away from their original raison d‘etre . For example, during an era of extraordinary technological change the leadership at Xerox took the courageous decision to move away from products that once defined the Xerox brand and branch out into risky and unknown areas of business. 

Know what makes you sing – As individual’s self-awareness is key. Knowing your passions and areas of strength can ensure you make the right decisions in your career and ultimately thrive and flourish in your working life. As organisations, it is important to know the strengths and weaknesses within your business and use these to your advantage in decision making. Winston Churchill said, "courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." This can be applied to team ways of working and accepting where others may be best placed to take work forward, or challenging others where you feel best placed to lead. 

Dare to do it – Finally after you have identified a pivot point and your role in the organisation- make the change!  O’Conner and Cloney reference that it “doesn’t mean working out every step before you make a big decision. In fact… not having a detailed plan was a valuable part of the process’. For organisations, there may be an element of deciding by committee but have the courage of your own convictions. As Muhammad Ali said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life."

It is absolutely not a one size fits all approach, however when considering the above as a whole, operating courageously as a business leader when making strategic decisions is an attitude or mindset rather than a skill. It’s a characteristic we can all develop as individuals and organisations.

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Helen Richardson Principal