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August 11, 2023

Courage in the Workplace

Sarah Harvey

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The Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz is known for his lack of courage, despite his imposing appearance.

In the story, he joins Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman in the hope of receiving the gift of courage from the Wizard, believing that it will help him overcome his fears and become a true king of the beasts.

Throughout the journey, the Cowardly Lion displays moments of bravery and loyalty, even though he frequently doubts his own courage.

What Is Courage?

As the story progresses, the companions encounter various challenges and obstacles, and the Cowardly Lion's journey involves facing his fears and doubts head-on.

Ultimately, when they reach the Emerald City and meet the Wizard, they discover that the qualities they sought were already present within themselves.

Importantly, the character of the Cowardly Lion represents the idea that courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to face one's fears despite them.

The lion's transformation throughout the story highlights themes of self-discovery, personal growth, and the realization that inner strength is often more powerful than external appearance.

In essence, courage involves acting with conviction, integrity, and a sense of purpose.

Courage in the Workplace

In business, courage is a quality that often separates the ordinary from the extraordinary. It is the driving force that propels individuals to embrace risks, challenge norms, and drive through change.

In the workplace, courage is not just a virtue: it is a powerful tool that can shape careers, foster innovation, and elevate the overall organizational culture. However, like any tool, courage must be used wisely. While there are times when displaying courage is essential, there may be instances where "blind courage" is not the best course of action.

The Benefits of Courage

Before we explore the potential downsides of courage, here are a few of the benefits of courage in the workplace.

Innovation

In a rapidly evolving business landscape, innovation is crucial for survival. Those who dare to challenge the status quo and bring fresh ideas to the table often lead the way. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and propose unconventional solutions that may lead to significant breakthroughs.

Speaking Up

Courageous employees aren't afraid to voice their opinions – even when they go against the majority. When an employee points out potential flaws in a project or strategy, they demonstrate courage that benefits the entire team.

Courage also means standing up for colleagues who might be facing challenges or injustices. Organizational, cultural, and social change would simply not be possible without people being courageous enough to stand up to injustices.

Calculated Risks

Every successful venture involves an element of risk. Employees who possess the courage to take well-considered risks might luck out with boosted career growth, and even financial gains.

Championing Change

Change can be daunting but is essential for growth. Employees who show courage in advocating for change such as new processes, new technology, or cultural shifts, become valuable change agents within the organization.

Addressing Conflicts

Courageous individuals are willing to address conflicts or issues that arise in the workplace. They do so constructively, aiming to resolve conflicts rather than allowing them to fester and harm team dynamics.

Admitting Mistakes

Displaying vulnerability by admitting mistakes takes courage. Such openness fosters a culture of learning and growth within the team.

The Dangers of Courage

There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity. Despite the positives that can come from demonstrating courage in the right way, at the right time, it is worth reflecting on the situations where courage may not serve us so well.

Reckless Decision-Making

While courage can drive positive change, it can also lead to recklessness if not tempered with thoughtful analysis. Acting on impulse without proper research or planning can result in costly mistakes.

Ignoring Feedback

Courageous individuals may become so invested in their own ideas that they shut out constructive criticism. This can hinder personal growth, as well as impact the success of projects. So it is important to listen to input from colleagues.

Conflict Escalation

Courageous conversations are important, but they must be approached with diplomacy and respect. Unchecked courage can turn discussions into confrontations, which can damage relationships and teamwork.

Overstepping Boundaries

Misplaced courage can sometimes lead employees to overstep their roles and responsibilities, causing friction and misunderstandings within the team. It is essential to have a clear understanding of our role and consider our courageous actions in context.

How to Be More Courageous at Work

Courage is undeniably a valuable trait in the workplace, driving innovation, change, and growth. It can empower individuals to take risks, speak up, and challenge norms. However, while it can lead to remarkable things, courageousness should always be balanced with critical thinking, open-mindedness, and a respect for others' perspectives.

In essence, courage involves acting with conviction, integrity, and a sense of purpose. It involves creating an environment that supports and rewards courageous behavior and a culture of increased innovation, better problem-solving, and a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Like the Cowardly Lion, finding our own courage at work can be a winding path. Sometimes we will display moments of bravery and loyalty, even though we may be wracked with doubt and uncertainty. But, as The Wizard of Oz taught us, all we really have to do to act with courage is to remember that courage is already present within ourselves.

Resources

You may like to take a look at the following Mind Tools resources, then join the coaches' events to share your thoughts, ask questions and learn more.

Choosing Courage: The Everyday Guide to Being Brave at Work (Book Insight)

Brave Leadership (Book Insight)

Assertiveness (Skillbook)


Sarah Harvey bio pic, smiling and pink haired

About the Author

Sarah is an experienced and qualified leadership, culture and conflict coach. An author, skilled trainer, facilitator, manager mentor, and workplace mediator, Sarah has over 30 years of experience to draw on. Following a career as an HR leader and consultant, she now loves coaching leaders and teams to improve their results through developing better workplace relationships and creating savvy conversational cultures. Away from work, Sarah can be found in her garden or perhaps writing her next book.

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