Think of courage and you may first picture physical bravery, but there are many other forms of courage. After all, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it." (Who should know better than Nelson Mandela?)
That means bravery--sometimes an extraordinary level of bravery--is required in business and entrepreneurship. Like taking a chance when others will not. Or following your vision no matter where it leads. Or standing up for what you believe in even though those beliefs are extremely unpopular.
Or simply doing the right thing, even though the right thing is definitely the hardest thing.
(Think of courage that way and you may be surprised by just how brave you really are.)
Here are ways otherwise ordinary people display extraordinary courage:
1. They're not afraid to believe the unimaginable.
Most people try to achieve the achievable. That's why most goals and targets are incremental rather than massive or even inconceivable.
Incremental is safe. Believable is safe. Why? When you play it safe you're less likely to fall short. You're less likely to fail. You're less likely to lose credibility and authority.
Don't be afraid to expect more from yourself... and to expect more from others by showing--and helping--them strive for "unsafe" heights.
2. They're not afraid to be patient.
When things go poorly, changing course or simply giving up is often the easiest way out.
It takes more courage to be patient, to believe in yourself, and to show people you believe in them.
Showing patience in others also shows you care. And when you show you truly care about the people around you, they find ways to do things that amaze everyone--including themselves.
Don't be afraid to give other people the gift of patience; it costs you nothing, but could mean the world to the recipients.
3. They're not afraid to say no.
Turning down huge requests is somewhat easy, but can you say no to requests for favors or demands on your time?
In those cases, saying yes is usually the easiest move. Saying no, even when you know you'll later resent or regret having said yes, is much harder. Yet it's often the best thing to do, both for you and oftentimes even for the other person.
Don't be afraid to say no.
4. They're not afraid to take an unpopular stand.
Many people try to stand out in a superficial way: clothes, or interests, or public support for popular initiatives. They're conspicuous for reasons of sizzle, not steak.
It takes genuine courage to stand out by taking an unpopular stand.
Don't be afraid to take risks not just for the sake of risk but for the sake of the reward you believe is possible... and by your example to inspire others to take a risk in order to achieve what they believe is possible.
5. They're not afraid to ask for help.
No one does anything worthwhile on his or her own. Even the most brilliant, visionary, and fabulously talented people achieve their success through collective effort.
Yet it takes courage to sincerely and humbly say, "Can you help me?" because asking for help shows vulnerability.
Don't be afraid to ask for help; not only will you get the help you need, you'll also give the gift of respect.
6. They're not afraid to show genuine emotion.
Acting professionally is actually fairly easy. (We all know a few robots.)
Acting professionally while also remaining openly human takes courage. It's not easy to show sincere excitement, sincere appreciation, and sincere disappointment--not just in others but also in yourself. It takes real bravery to openly celebrate, openly empathize, and openly worry.
Don't be afraid to strike a balance between professionalism and humanity. That's what builds exceptional relationships--both professional and personal.
7. They're not afraid to forgive... and forget.
When an employee makes a mistake--especially a major mistake--it's easy to forever view that employee through the lens of that mistake.
But one mistake, or one weakness, or one failing is also just a part of the whole person.
It's easy to fire, to punish, to resent; it's much harder to step back, set aside a mistake, and think about the whole person. It takes courage to move past and forget mistakes and to treat an employee, a colleague, or a friend as a whole person and not just a living reminder of an error, no matter how grievous that mistake may have been.
Don't be afraid not just to forgive... but also to forget.
8. They're not afraid to stay the course.
It's easy to have ideas, but it's hard to stick with those ideas in the face of repeated failure.
And it's incredibly hard to stay the course when everyone else feels you should give up.
Hesitation, uncertainty, and failure causes people to quit. It takes courage to face the fear of the unknown and the fear of failure.
Don't be afraid to trust your judgment, your instincts, and your willingness to overcome every obstacle. You can.
9. They're not afraid to earn the right to lead.
Every boss has a title, and in theory that title confers the right to direct, to make decisions, to organize and instruct and discipline.
The truly brave leader forgets the title and leads by making people feel they work with, not for, that person.
Don't be afraid to stop falling back on a title but instead working to earn respect; when you do, you earn the permission to truly lead.
10. They're not afraid to succeed through others.
Great teams are made up of people who know their roles, set aside personal goals, willingly help each other, and value team success over everything else. Great business teams win because their most talented members are willing to sacrifice to make others successful and happy.
Don't be afraid to answer the question, "Can you make the choice that your happiness will come from the success of others?" with a resounding "Yes!"
The payoff is worth it.
11. They're not afraid to say, "I'm sorry."
We all make mistakes, and we all have things we need to apologize for: Words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, show support.
It takes courage to say, "I'm sorry." It takes even more courage not to add, "But I was really mad, because..." or "But I did think you were..." or any words that in any way places the smallest amount of blame back on the other person.
Don't be afraid to say you're sorry. You'll gain, not lose, respect--and in the process repair a relationship that might have been damaged.
12. They're not afraid to take undeserved blame.
A customer is upset. A coworker is frustrated. A supplier feels shortchanged. An investor is impatient.
Whatever the issue, the courageous people step up and take the hit. They support others. They support their teams. They willingly take responsibility and draw negative attention to themselves because to do otherwise is not just de-motivating and demoralizing, it also undermines other people's credibility and authority.
Don't be afraid to throw yourself under the bus; and if that's too much to ask, at the very least never throw other people under the bus.