Courage, Empowerment or Bravery—What’s the Difference?

by Sandra Ford Walston

People have frequently asked me, “Is courage the same as empowerment and bravery?” I don’t think so. Here is how I believe these vitally important concepts are distinctly different.Courageous leadership

Courage is an internal process. It occurs when you make a conscious decision to tap into and use your inner “reservoir” of heart, which you might not have even realized you have.

Courage manifests itself when a person embarks on a journey that is in line with their “heart and spirit.” In fact, heart and spirit is the root of the word courage. Tapping into your courage enables you to stand in your true Self — your solid core. A courageous person’s leadership style exemplifies their ability to “lead self.” This is where you display your understanding of courage consciousness such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. They acted according to their convictions despite opposition or attractive opportunities that would betray their true nature.

Simple everyday courage can be a powerful force for positive change, and it’s available to everyone. It’s what gives you permission to finally ask for a raise or confess that you hired the wrong person.

Empowerment is a feeling, a quiet dignity and belief that every individual has value and a determination to base one’s life actions on that belief. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi demonstrate empowerment, as does contemporary activist Shannon Galpin (Mountain to Mountain) who empowered women in Afghanistan to ride bicycles when it was forbidden. Empowered individuals move societies forward. Empowerment can result when someone else bestows responsibility or faith in us. Empowerment can also be the mental outcome of a brave act. One feels empowered.

Bravery is action. It is most often thought of as an impulsive act to protect others at one’s own expense, in the face of an imminent threat or danger. It carries a sense of physical threat and is usually accompanied by adrenaline-activated feats, commonly referred to as “heroism.” Our culture tends to focus on bravery since it hovers around physical courage. Physical courage is one of many facets of courage such as spiritual courage, leadership courage or moral/ethical courage.

Sandra Ford Walston is known as The Courage Expert. Featured on the speaker circuit as witty, provocative, concrete and insightful, she has sparked positive change in the lives of thousands of leaders each year. She found that there is a direct correlation between your success quotient and your courage quotient.

She is the internationally published author of bestsellerCOURAGEThe Heart and Spirit of Every Woman, the follow-up book The COURAGE Difference at Work: A Unique Success Guide for Women and FACE IT! 12 Courageous Actions that Bring Success at Work and Beyond. All three books are on based 20 years of original courage research. She is certified in the Enneagram and MBTI® and she is a certified Newfield Network coach. Please visit www.sandrawalston.com.

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