Courageous Leadership

Leading with Courage


  • Leadership requires collective courage, not just individual bravery. 
  • Effective leadership relies on shared understanding, values, and language. 
  • Leaders should foster an environment where individuals can express thoughts and ideas without fear. 
  • Courageous leadership involves promoting honest, respectful dialogues or “rumbling”. 
  • Navigating complex issues requires a collective approach to leadership, not just individual courage. 

Courageous leadership is so much more than stepping up to take decisive action or making bold gestures. It involves a more nuanced approach to embracing vulnerability, shame, and emotional resilience. As such, it’s essential to redefine our understanding of courageous leadership. This is what Brené Brown has sought to do in her insightful book, “Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts” (Random House, 2018). 

Unlike the persistent mythology, our world of work finds so difficult to shake off, leadership isn’t simply about individual bravery or heroism. The collective attribute of courage in a leadership context significantly contributes to an organisation’s success. Courage is not an attribute of the ‘lone wolf’ but a shared trait necessary for any group’s effective functioning. 

Creating shared understanding, values, and language is crucial in leadership. These shared elements form the bedrock of effective communication, leading to collaborative problem-solving, innovation, and increased productivity. In an increasingly connected world, the creation of shared understanding is fundamental. 

Brown points to psychological safety as another critical component of courageous leadership. Creating an environment where individuals feel safe to express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings without fear of punishment or ridicule is pivotal. Recent research by Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard Business School, underscores the importance of psychological safety in fostering learning and innovation in organisations. 

Moreover, fostering honest, respectful conversation is a hallmark of courageous leadership. The practice of “rumbling”, a term coined by Brown, refers to these robust and honest interactions that occur without fear of breaking down relationships. Rumbling enables individuals to engage in dialogue, lean into their vulnerabilities, and contribute meaningfully to decision-making processes. 

The complexities of today’s world require a collective approach to leadership. A singular leader’s courage will not suffice when dealing with intricate and multifaceted issues. A shared responsibility and collective courage are vital for effectively navigating through the complexities and ambiguities that characterise modern organisations. 

An article published in Harvard Business Review by Thomas H. Lee reiterates this point. According to Lee, “the single most important factor in an organisation’s success is the strength of its leadership.” However, he further clarifies that leadership should not be confined to a single person or a group of managers but must permeate the entire organisation. 

Courageous leadership involves leaning into vulnerability and embracing the messiness of life and work. It is about confronting issues, however uncomfortable, and working through them together as a team. The ability to tackle the little things, such as acknowledging mistakes or addressing conflicts head-on, epitomises genuine courage in leadership. 


The Leadership Decanted Team 

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