Bravery in Organizational Leadership

Think about the people you want on your team. Ideally, you want people who embrace failure and welcome challenges, or “big, scary things.” You want them to be brave. But how do you promote bravery?

As I was preparing a lecture for medical students last week on the topic of “joy”, I found a Ted Talk by Susie Rinhart, called Brave Over Perfect and it stopped me in my tracks. Over the course of her 8 minute 56 second talk, I had to pause the computer several times and look around because I felt like she was speaking directly to me.

The title alone grabbed my attention. My word for 2017 was brave. When I picked this word, I viewed being brave from the lens of standing up to something overwhelming or having the courage to do something I’ve never done before. Throughout the year, I embraced and experienced bravery to the fullest. I experienced success, failure, joy, sadness, fear, and everything in between, and when 2017 came to an end, I viewed bravery from a different lens.

Here’s what I know:

  • Bravery isn’t about just doing hard things, but learning that you can do hard things with the support of other people.
  • Bravery is learning to fail (and be okay with it).
  • Bravery is about finding footing on your own two feet, even if it means others are holding me up.
  • Bravery rarely only involves one person.

How do we encourage bravery over perfection?

As leaders, we have a direct influence on the perception of failure. By modeling the humanity that is at the core of leadership, choosing bravery over perfection, we show our team that it’s ok to fail. That we need each other. That it’s ok and encouraged to let others support you.

As you create your own definition of bravery, here are a few things to consider:

Feel what you need to feel.

As Susie Rinhart described the days following her diagnosis, she said, “I spent 72 hours along, in the dark, pretending to meditate.” There will be times where you experience sadness, joy, denial, fear. Feel it. Every part of it. The freedom we give ourselves to feel what we need to feel, opens the door to healing, solutions, and steps forward.

Rest in your truth.

You’ll be amazed at the bravery you tap into when you know and accept who you are. In her TED Talk, Susie reflects on her journey and says, “I had been saying someone else’s lines, because I couldn’t possibly know the right thing to say.” What are you currently doing that isn’t authentic to who you are? Living in your truth is an inherently brave thing to do.

Ditch the perfectionism and embrace failure.

How many people just shuddered at this idea? For a long time I was one of them. Just because I’m not striving to be perfect doesn’t mean that I’m not continuously trying to be better or that I’m not working as hard. It does mean that when failure happens, I stop and learn. It means I’m committed to allowing these experiences to make me better. Susie provides a challenge at the end of her talk, and says, “The opposite of joy is not sadness; it’s perfectionism. The world does not need us to be perfect; it just needs us to contribute to the common good.” Fear of failure often makes us timid. What kind of impact could we have on the world around us by being all in, success or not?

Bravery is critical to our organizations.

When bravery is modeled, people feel empowered to do the same. Bravery allows organizations to take on big things, to be innovative. Bravery allows our people to find what they truly love to do; therefore, allowing them to find joy in their work.

Brave work is not meant for one level of the organization. Remember when I said I’ve learned that bravery rarely only involved me?

To leaders,
How can you support your team in being brave? How are you modeling experiencing failure? Susie made a powerful point when she said, “…when we aren’t the top performer, we don’t question our values, we question our worth.” How are you contributing to an environment that values team members for being people first- people who are going to experience success and failure?

To individual team members,
Where can you be brave in your work? And who can help you? Like Susie said, “The courage we each need to find is different.” What does this look like for you, and are you willing to change?

There’s something to be said about collective bravery. It creates of culture that reframes failure and difficulty into creativity and opportunity. If you would like to talk more about what bravery could look like for you or your organization, let’s connect. Your people are worth it, and most importantly- you are worth it.

Be well,