by Nikki Owen

Courage and charisma

Joan of Arc won the loyalty of her soldiers based on her courage and charisma. During that time, the military was a male subculture within which men in military elites were jealously protective of their own elite status. Joan’s ability to join this elite should have been crippled three times over: by her young age (she was hardly more than a child), by the fact that she was a peasant in a feudal society, and because she was female. Yet Joan’s innate courage made thousands of men want to follow her.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s life is a story of huge courage. He endured a twenty-three year imprisonment for his dream of a better and equal South Africa. This man’s vision was so completely and utterly compelling for him that he had no other choice except to stand by his beliefs in the face of devastating personal adversity.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes has been described as the world’s greatest living explorer and was awarded an OBE for human endeavour and charitable services. His courage when faced with nature’s most dangerous and difficult challenges is a great analogy for leaders in the business world. The elements vital to the success of an expedition include teamwork, courage, determination, resilience and the ability to perform under extreme pressure. These same qualities are all crucial to success in the business world.

For a charismatic leader working within a corporate environment, the very nature of their character and personality gives rise to a plethora of situations in which they require courage and steely nerves to pursue what they believe to be right.

Courage in the workplace

A charismatic leader not only requires personal courage but can also benefit from actively promoting an environment within which people are encouraged to be courageous. In a courageous climate:

  • Difficult things can be said
  • There won’t be a sense of fear about what may happen in the future
  • People can develop through controlled risk-taking – it’s OK to make a mistake
  • Performance and productivity soars without the choking restraints of fear
  • Ideas are welcomes and creativity increases
  • People find it easier to adapt and accept changes.

Creating a courageous environment

Charismatic leaders possess the ability to engage in courageous conversations. This requires courageous listening, courageous decision-making, courageous action, the courage to set and enforce standards of behaviour, and the courage to do what it takes to change destructive existing habits. Courageous leadership requires people to see what others don’t want to see, and do what others don’t want to do.

An organisation may have the ability to make the necessary changes, but it requires courageous leaders who possess strength, conviction, and the stamina to hold on through the inevitable resistance. Chuck Yeager, the first person to break the sound barrier, reported that as he approached the barrier, it was the most turbulent ride of his life, but once he broke through, it became the calmest.

Courageous leaders:

  • Challenge and clarify group perceptions
  • Rebalance power so it is shared by the workforce
  • Lead by example and set the right tone
  • Ask for forgiveness when they make a mistake
  • Do what they believe in
  • Admit their weaknesses
  • Stand up for themselves
  • Break old patterns and builds new ones
  • Protect their people
  • Take risks.