Leading with Emotional Courage

Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC

I continue to be amazed and impressed by the group of leaders that I have been working with since February of this year. Last week, the 2020 Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) cohort program ended with this awesome group of leaders presenting a final project of what they learned from the program. I was blown away by their creativity, self-awareness, courage, vulnerability and sense of humor. Throughout this program, each of these leaders pushed beyond their comfort zones and demonstrated an enormous amount of emotional courage. Early on, they made the unfamiliar transition from an in-person program to a completely virtual learning experience without complaint. They continued to demonstrate their courage through personal self-disclosure with the other group members, having difficult conversations that made them uncomfortable, and some of them even acting outside of their innate personalities and preferences in skits for their final project.

I truly believe they embraced Peter Bregman’s quote, “If you are willing to feel everything, you can do anything,” from his book Leading with Emotional Courage. What stops a lot of people from doing uncomfortable things and having tough conversations is feeling vulnerable. Often times, we know what to do and what we want to say, but we lack the emotional courage to take a risk and put ourselves out there. Because we don’t want to experience negative emotions such as fear, rejection, embarrassment, or humiliation, we don’t take chances, so we miss opportunities. Brene Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, and because of this, she says it’s our most accurate measure of courage. When we see vulnerability in others, we view it as courage, but ironically we view showing our own vulnerability as weakness, which is a myth. Vulnerability is a strength and not a weakness.

I view these leaders as being incredibly courageous because they were willing to make themselves vulnerable throughout this program. They were willing to “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” (Susan Jeffers), and I hope they will continue to “Dare Greatly” (Brene Brown) throughout the rest of their careers and lives. It has been an honor and a total joy to work with all of these exceptional leaders over the past several months. I wish them every success and happiness. I am thrilled that they will be developing and setting the example for the next generation of leaders, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for them.

“Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.” – Brene Brown

“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.” – Brene Brown

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