Brave leaders display these four attributes


Brave leaders embrace uncertainty, maintain unwavering focus, embrace failure as an opportunity, and stand firm on their principles, fostering a culture of growth and authenticity.

What do you envisage when you think of the word bravery? Mel Gibson’s rousing call of “Freedom” in his portrayal of William Wallace? A firefighter pulling a child out of a burning building? Emmeline Parkhurst campaigning to ensure women could vote? There are many faces of bravery and it’s is easy to think it only applies to situations that will change the world, or where life depends on it … but the opportunity for bravery surrounds us in our everyday.

In the workplace, bravery manifests itself in leaders who have conviction, that know themselves intimately and what they stand for. Their core beliefs form an unshakable foundation that they anchor to during turbulent times. Being true to oneself in the corporate world isn’t an easy path to tread. Trekking through the grey ethical landscape requires leaders to have a strong set of values that act as their moral compass.

Unlike the courage displayed in heroic acts, where there’s little or no conscious thought, bravery is mostly a choice. A decision you make after weighing up the options available to you. These decisions may not be popular, perhaps misunderstood by others. But brave leaders know they are necessary. They’re able to see past the whims and feelings of others in that moment, aware that to be an extraordinary leader means being brave enough to make the decisions others don’t want to.

Here are four examples of brave leadership and some practical ways you can start to integrate them into your daily behaviours.

1. Brave leaders use uncertainty as momentum to drive forward

In turbulent times most of us hunker down, retreat to safety and stick with what we know. But brave leaders meet challenges head on, seeing opportunity in the turbulence, a moment to discover new and bold ways of doing things, and using their core values as a platform from which to launch ahead.

What you can do today: If you always play it safe, start to think about how you can incorporate bravery into certain situations – take a problem your business faces, and write down your different, creative and out-of-the-box solutions. Revisit the list every few days. Reflection will nurture these thoughts until they are established enough to action and incorporate into your every day.

2. They have an innate ability to focus on their goal

Brave leaders regularly use a set of blinkers, akin to a racehorse, in order to avoid distractions that will delay or inhibit them from reaching their goal. Those around them may call them illogical, and will assume they are unable to look at a situation objectively. But these leaders know distractions will usually only serve to throw them off course and increase the chances of failure.

What you can do today: Identify your distractions or distractors. These can include people, unnecessary tasks or habits you have formed. Make a conscious effort to avoid distractors and see if your progress improves. Know your triggers and plan what you will do to reset when you find yourself falling into a distraction pattern.

3. Brave leaders knowing they will fail at some point

As Henry Ford said, “failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” … and he should know. His first automobile company was unsuccessful and the Ford Motor Company almost didn’t make it – only saved by some external investors. Fords’ career track record marks many brave decisions that would’ve been revolutionary for the time. So many of us are afraid of failure that we won’t even try. But it’s in that action of denying our vulnerability, that we’re missing out on potential achievements, successes and opportunities to learn.

What you can do today: Recognise and accept if a fear of failure is holding you back. Start to move into a growth mindset, and see failures as challenges and opportunities to be embraced.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently

Henry Ford

4. They won’t compromise on their principles

A brave leader takes care to notice when things aren’t right. Sleeping well at night is more important than turning a blind eye. They live their values and this in turn allows those around them to do the same. Brave leaders don’t want to be surrounded by people who will only say yes. They relish in being challenged, because it drives a culture of continuous improvement, allowing for businesses to regularly visit who they are, why they do what they do, and what they stand for.

What you can do today: Encourage curiosity and provide the freedom and space for your team to question your thinking and call you out. Ensure you’re prepared to hear their feedback by undertaking work on your self. Knowing your triggers will put you in a better place to hear and see with honesty and authenticity.

Bravery is one of the attributes that is explored in the ELEVEN executive leadership development program.