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12 definitive traits of a leader: Part 3-Courage



by Jeff Custer | Monday, May 9, 2022


Do you shrink in the face of fear? There are several animal species such as opposums and armadillos that curl up into a ball when threatened. They shrink with fright. Other animals such as bears and cape buffalo are known for their courage when challenged.


Like bears and cape buffalo, courageous leaders are the most effective. They refuse to back down when faced with challenges, hardships, troubles, or difficulties. It doesn’t mean they don’t have fears. We all have our fears. Courageous leaders take action despite their fears.


Here are three ways a leader shows and exercises their courage:


  1. Effective leaders have the courage to make choices and take action. In a crisis, or even in regular times—they have the ability to weigh risks and make decisions, even tough ones, in the face of opposition. One of my favorite questions that I use in interviews is, “Do you ask for forgiveness or permission?” Because I want to know if someone is willing to push the envelope, to have the courage to make a choice.

  2. Effective leaders have the courage to NOT do something. Key aspects are delegation and focus. They must know when and what to delegate. This involves developing and having trust in others to get things done. New leaders often fall prey to holding on. They are used to doing stuff and struggle to delegate. They may be afraid that the person won’t be able to do the task or won’t do it to the expected standards of the leader. They winnow away the chaff and focus on the important. They challenge the status quo and will discard tasks that add no value to the organization.

  3. Effective leaders have the courage to speak up. They don’t shy away from having crucial, and often tough, conversations with employees, peers, and superiors.


Like other leadership traits, courage can be learned and improved upon. All it takes is some practice. We’re challenging you to be more courageous today:


  • Take a risk on a decision that you’d usually ask permission for. Borrowing a popular ad slogan… just do it.

  • Delegate a task that you want to cling to. Let it go!

  • Have one crucial conversation you’ve been putting off. Just please prepare first.


Strong leaders are courageous. They tackle the difficult head on. And their courage propels them to success.


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Jeff Custer is a long-time leader at both private and Fortune 500 companies where he has developed and led both high performance individuals and teams. He is passionate about developing leaders and building high impact teams. Jeff resides in the United States.

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