Courage is a quality that’s often needed in business and it manifests itself in different ways.-In Marc Stigter and Cary Cooper’s new book, Boards that dare: How to future-proof today’s corporate boards, they highlight the nine courage-related mindsets, values and character traits that senior executives need to drive their business to success.
Persevering in the face of adversity
Executives who are conscientious feel a duty to act in the face of adversity because they believe it is the right thing to do. This also means displaying great tenacity. And it gets easier with age; research has a found that you become more conscientious the older you get.
Taking responsibility for outcomes
Courageous executives believe they have power over events regardless of the variables at play. When things go wrong, they take responsibility, instead of blaming the management team, employees, the global economy, the media or competitors. They believe in their ability to take control of these variables, positively influence situations and create the right outcomes.
Following their heart
One of the most important traits for executives is self-courage; the ability to follow their heart and intuition. This involves standing for what they believe in or for what they know is right in the face of opposition.
Alternately, it is the courage to sit and listen. And, as said by Winston Churchill, it is the courage to say, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t understand’.
Believing in their own ability
These executives don’t confuse self-confidence with ego. While there is nothing wrong with a healthy ego, executives who display mostly ego-driven behaviours are not courageous, but rather dysfunctional.
Being hopeful – not optimistic
Believing that the future will be much better than the past and present is called the optimism bias. It makes executives believe they have a lower risk of experiencing a negative event compared to others.
The book argues that optimism is not courageous, but rather naïve. It highlights that while optimism is the belief that things will get better, hope is the belief that if we work hard enough, we can make things better.
Bouncing back from setbacks
Resilience is the ability to adapt in the face of adversity and to bounce back and thrive afterwards. Stigter and Cooper’s research found resilience to be a critical characteristic of transformative executives and one that needs to be cultivated so they don’t succumb to the forces around them or to themselves.
Acting on inner convictions
As said by actress Queen Latifah, it’s not always easy to stand up for what you believe in. However, it is something courageous executives do. These executives act in accordance to their core values and beliefs, despite criticism or fear. Courage is manifested when their convictions are bigger than their fears.
Believing in support
Courageous leaders need to believe in the quality of support available to them to effectively perform their governance duties. Research from Stigter and Cooper found that when individuals don’t feel their governance tasks are supported by systems, procedures and policies, it increases their anxiety, reduces their confidence and disables courageous action in the boardroom.
Learning from others
Lastly, these executives have the courage to learn from others. However, group expectations and pressures can cause executives to act against their core values and beliefs, which can hamper their courage.
"Executives who are conscientious feel a duty to act in the face of adversity because they believe it is the right thing to do."
Hope is the belief that if we work hard enough, we can make things better.