Background and Context
For some time I have been curious about ‘courage’ and its relationship to leadership. I am specifically interested in the part that courage plays in a leader’s decision to work with a coach, but also in the courage it takes for a coach to help their clients become as effective as possible in their leadership roles.
Courage is not a new topic in serious conversations on leadership. It has been considered a significant attribute of the most effective leaders for many years. And it endures as revealed in many of the current discussions of leadership, including research and writing of such influential writers as Brene Brown, Kim Scott, Robert Kegan and Kim Lahey.
Today and for the past nearly two decades, I have been privileged to coach a range of individuals, in both private and public sectors and at various levels of the organization from senior to mid-level roles. As well, I have engaged two business coaches over the years, each of whom brought a personal style different from my own and each of whom supported and challenged me as I worked on specific developmental points, which would make me more valuable to clients.
From the experience of being ‘on both sides of the desk’, I have learned that being courageous almost always has some risk attached, some willingness to leave a more comfortable situation and some need to test ourselves and the values we espouse. And when we choose to take a courageous step or action, it almost always results in the learning and satisfaction that come from stretching ourselves and being willing to live our values and principles.
I now want to talk about courage from two perspectives: that of the person who decides to work with a coach and the coach who is engaged to support that individual in his or her growth, learning and development.
For purposes of clarity, the coaching work that I am referring to is with clients who want to accelerate their growth and impact as leaders; my comments are focused on those who choose to engage with a business or leadership coach, not those whose organizations have directed them to work with a coach for remedial purposes. In my experience (and it is my very good fortune to be able to say this) the leaders I have the privilege to work with are already accomplished in their roles; their interest is in furthering and deepening their development, expanding their action options and having even greater positive impact on those they lead and their organizations.