When you think of someone that is courageous, who comes to mind? As a little girl I idolized Wonder Woman. Not only was she beautiful and possessed super human strength, she wasn’t afraid of anything. She could stop bullets aimed her direction. In the midst of calamity, she stood with confidence, her hands placed firmly on her hips. Wonder Woman was invincible. (Actually, I learned that the inventor did give her one weakness, but that was changed many years later.)
This super hero was so appealing to me because she represented everything I was not. Fear was one of my companions in childhood and continues to visit me as an adult. I never climbed a tree because I was afraid of falling. I hated being in the dark. I was easily spooked. I avoided any situation that seemed to have any kind of risk associated with it. I also was paranoid of getting sick. When I felt the slightest pain or discomfort, I worried that it would become life threatening. Wonder Woman and I were clearly opposites.
Last week I attended a seminar for Executive Directors. The consultant mentioned some of the attributes of effective upper level leaders. Skills can be learned but, according to her, these traits were innate. As she listed them, I checked them off with a sense of relief. And then she got to the trait fearless.
My thoughts immediately started to race. “Oh no, not fearless!” “What am I even doing in this room?” “What am I doing as an Executive Director in the first place?”
I took control of my thoughts, and reminded myself of an important principle.
Courage isn’t about what you feel like on the inside. Courage is about what you do on the outside despite what you feel on the inside.
As a vocal performer and public speaker, I have had lots of experience with anxiety. When I first started singing, I would get physically sick and make multiple bathroom runs before going on stage. Thankfully I learned to ask the Lord for His strength and peace, to help me harness the power of fear and use it as energy to fuel my performance. Nobody had a clue what was going on inside me. All they could see was someone exuding confidence and completely engaged with the audience.
It is similar with leadership. There are plenty of occasions to feel anxiety, fear, or a looming sense of inadequacy. It’s what we do in the midst of these feelings that counts.
Here are some of the external actions that characterize courage.
Courage perseveres. You do what it takes to cross the finish line. You keep following God’s direction and plan for your life, and don’t allow difficulties to deter you.
Courage evaluates. You are willing to take a hard look at the current realities and not sugar coat the facts. You look for feedback from others to accurately assess situations.
Courage changes. You may not like change, but you understand how important it is in order to move forward. Creativity and innovation are necessary in shaking up the status quo.
Courage confesses. You readily admit when you are wrong or when you don’t have the answers. Authenticity is more important than looking good.
Courage prays. You draw your strength and inspiration from Jesus. When challenges arise, you call out to the Lord in prayer and seek His wisdom.
Courage includes. You ask others to help in the areas of their strengths and skills. You know it takes a well balanced team to get the job done.
Remember, you don’t have to feel brave to be brave.
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).
Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).
The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10).
Heavenly Father, You are my strength and my shield. When I am afraid, help me trust in You. Thank You for empowering me with everything I need to accomplish Your will. May I walk in confidence, knowing You are with me. In Jesus’ name.