by Sandra Ford Walston
One of the first life lessons of my career also made the biggest impression.
I had taken a job as an entry-level business development officer for a small start-up bank in West Los Angeles. My job responsibilities consisted of qualifying, securing and transferring profitable clients in the bank’s target market, perhaps the most important part of the business for a start-up. Thrown into the fire without any bank training, I learned the hard way—by making cold calls on prospective clients. Nonetheless, I had to show my boss, the president, that he had hired the right person to bring in lucrative businesses. The only problem was that I didn’t know how to assess a “profitable piece of business.”
In the beginning, I met with a variety of prospects who attempted to manipulate or intimidate my rookie judgment. Many times my choice of action was simply to walk away. In the process, filled with hits and misses, I quickly learned banking processes and regulations, built rapport with our target market and advanced to assistant vice president. Eventually, I became vice president of private banking, and throughout it all, I never regretted a single courage-based decision that I made with a variety of life lessons.
So what is the key life lesson here? Courage! Don’t ever consider selling your soul—walk away! Try and try again not to swallow your voice for a piece of business, even if it looks like “the big one!” The key here is to understand the kind of courage that supports effective leadership. I don’t mean bravado or physical courage like our culture supports and highlights, but the kind of day-to-day courage that invaluable business leaders employ consistently—everything from speaking up during a company meeting to overcoming an obstacle that hinders professional advancement. These small instances often create the defining moments of a person’s career while exemplifying personal courage.
Most people mistakenly believe that courage is only relevant during particularly perilous times. As a result, they don’t perceive the courageous nature of confronting the office bully, embracing reflection, transcending rejection or taking the initiative to stamp out status quo. In reality, each person has the capacity to be a courageous leader regardless of his or her position! How you confront workday issues and contribute to your own professional advancement speak volumes about your personal courage and set a leadership example others can follow.
So what makes the difference? The difference lies in understanding the deeper meaning of courage, which comes from the French word, “corage”, meaning heart and spirit. In other words, acting with courage is really about acting from your heart and spirit—from the center of your being. By identifying with your true heart-and-spirit Self, you claim the courage that empowers you to overcome personal limitations—the kind of limitations that prevent us all from providing effective business leadership.
Since our limitations vary widely, each of us must reflect on our own life lessons in order to recognize the misperceptions and attachments that keep us stuck in our false identities and counterproductive patterns.
If you have an interest to boost courageous leadership, ask yourself: Are you willing to give yourself permission to claim your courage? Change management guru Daryl Conner wrote in FACE IT!, “While courage remains a ‘potential’ for everyone and every organization, it becomes a ‘reality’ for only those willing to pay the price!”
* There are twelve courage cousins: clarity, composure, consistency, carrying on, faith, controversy, concentration, compassion, commitment, contentment, confessing, and candor.
She is the internationally published author of bestsellerCOURAGE The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman (2001), the follow-up book STUCK 12 Steps Up the LeadershipLadder (2010) and the recently released FACE IT! 12 Obstacles that Hold You Back on the Job (2011). She is certified in the Enneagram and MBTI®. Watch YouTube:FACE IT! | Twitter | Facebook
All Rights Reserved