During the 25 years I spent working in British Gas and GlaxoSmithKline developing leaders and supporting organisational change, I sought to understand that perennial question "what does leadership potential really look like?". I worked across different parts of the businesses (marketing led, sales led, scientific led, engineering led) with very different senior leaders, and the halo effect was evident - strategic thinkers liked other strategic thinkers, operational deliverers liked other operational deliverers, engineers liked engineers etc. However there was something "key talents" held in common that inspired and gave confidence beyond the traditional competencies.  

As the search continued for that Holy Grail of predicting leadership potential, I came to believe the common denominator was courage. Courage to be yourself, courage to do the right thing, courage to face challenges and difficulties, courage to communicate expectations and hold yourself and others accountable, courage to listen and learn, courage to step up when it matters, courage to persevere through difficulty.

At the same time I observed how easily courage could be both lost and grown. That indeed, life's curve balls often knock courage out of the ball-park. That the courage of those whose lives are stretched too thin may momentarily lapse through distraction or exhaustion. That encouragement and the listening ear of the right person at the right time can make all the difference. That the right opportunities can catalyse courage. That in fact, whatever our context, we can all grow our own courage, and the courage of those around us.

In 2010 I decided to focus on exploring how best to develop courage, and on supporting leaders, leadership teams and organisations in their endeavours to do this. I set up Courage2Lead and started research amongst our network and clients. Out of this research came the B.R.A.V.E model for courageous living and leadership (© 2013 Courage2Lead). What also quickly became apparent was the overwhelming desire for more courage in leadership.

                        B.R.A.V.E.  -  The Characteristics of Courage

                                               Vulnerable yet willing
                                               Embracing difficulty & challenge

Below I revisit the B.R.A.V.E. model to give an overview of the key characteristics to be nurtured if you wish to grow your own courage and support others to do the same. I welcome your comments and feedback.

The characteristics of Courage
B is for BOLD

Being Bold is about daring to be seen. It's about what you are prepared to commit to in your professional and personal development goals. It's about dreaming BIG. Its about your ambition for a better world for your team, your business, and your organisation; for yourself, your family and your community. It's about putting one step in front of the other in the faith and confidence that it will take you where you need to go. Its about speaking up with a voice that will be heard. 

The characteristics of Courage

Being Resilient is about being able to sustain performance and stretch, without damaging your personal infrastructure (or that of others). Think of an elastic band, stretch it too far and the structure tears and the integrity of the band is lost. Keep stretching without any recovery or strengthening and it will break. To grow personal resilience we need to build & sustain our physical energy reserves, our mental focus, our emotional balance and our sense of purpose.

The characteristics of Courage

Being Authentic is about aligning our actions, our words, our behaviours and our intentions. The more aligned we are, the more others trust us, the more inner power we feel and the more we are able to influence our world.
To grow authenticity we need to reconnect to ourselves and our place and purpose in the world. Staying present to the here and now, we need to integrate and learn from our experiences, and apply them to our intention for the future. We need to be consistent in the way we show up and show what we stand for.

The characteristics of Courage
V is for VULNERABLE yet willing

Being Vulnerable yet willing is about acknowledging and knowing our vulnerabilities, the edges of our discomfort, personal pain points, and yet remain willing to risk exposure to test ourselves in the face of a struggle or difficulty. If there were no vulnerability, there would be no courage. Vulnerability demands emotional fortitude.

Vulnerability is also the part of courage that draws others to us, that taps into our shared common humanity and provides others with inspiration to move forward in courage themselves.

The characteristics of Courage
E is for EMBRACING difficulty and challenge

Embracing difficulty and challenge is about what we do with all the above characteristics. It's about taking ourselves out in the difficult, uncertain and often messy world, and rather than burying our head in the sand, or trying to quick-fix everything, it's about really embracing what is, listening to what is needed, and facing it wholeheartedly. It's about going not around or over, but through the fire that forges courage.