Global Business Leaders Need Courage

  • The final Compass Consortium blog on attributes of successful global business leaders explores the importance of courage and how to develop it.

    Whenever a leader, whether new or very experienced, shows up to work, it’s inevitable that she will need courage to navigate the challenges of change. What is work other than challenge, having to make difficult decisions, or sometimes even an experience of overwhelm? A great global leader finds ways to become calmer and more comfortable in these swirling waters of change. The phrase, “today it’s like this and tomorrow it’s like that” speaks to the speed with which things can shift. The global leader needs to be able to shift courageously.

    Navigating the Shift

    Navigating change occurs at several levels. The manager is dealing with her own fears and concerns, while supporting her direct reports and also making sure her boss is comfortable with how it’s being handled. When the concept of “change” emerges, people sometimes “freak out” or other times deny or pretend it’s not there. The reality of change, however, is that it doesn’t go away and it needs to be dealt with, one way or another. It’s best not to go into denial about it. Here’s an example of positive change. Someone I coached with over time, Stan, was offered a wonderful opportunity to move abroad and accept a promotion into a much higher position within his current company. He grappled with whether he was ready, did he have the right experience, could he move his family, etc.

    Professional Courage

    As we spent time considering the opportunity, Stan was very concerned about how others would view him and treat him because of this generous offer he now had. Would there be jealousy? He didn’t want to lose friends; however, he knew this was a logical courage, global leadershipnext step in his own career trajectory. The move wouldn’t happen for probably a year; however, his presence was needed abroad as soon as possible. This meant traveling a couple of times each month, becoming known in the new environment and learning about the new country and culture. He wasn’t even clear that he knew how to do the job being asked of him. He was quite riddled with doubt. Courage is what was being tested.

    Personal Courage

    Stan’s next challenge was the courage to discuss the promotion with his family. After all, they would eventually be pulling up roots and moving as well. He was fearful of how they would react. What if they weren’t onboard? As his coach, I helped him develop strategies about how to approach the conversations and engage each family member in the adventure.

    What does it take to have courage?

    So, overall, what is involved in developing your courage as a global leader?

    • It’s about facing risk and concern and dealing with overwhelm and change. Part and parcel of this is the ability to look at the truth… not the candy-coated version, but the reality version.
    • It’s about learning to dance in the moment and go with the flow, not resisting too much along the way. Only in the moment can you step into new territories and do something new and different.
    • It’s about checking inside, being quiet with yourself and listening to your own inner voice. As coaches, we recommend relaxation exercises like deep breathing and meditation.
    • It’s about taking good care of yourself so you have the bandwidth to handle the unexpected and to move forward even when you don’t know where or how to do that. Examples of taking good care of yourself are working out, taking breaks, eating well, getting enough sleep, doing something fun, and tapping into your sense of humor.
    • It’s about allowing yourself to be vulnerable with a couple of good listeners that you trust and can be yourself around. Keeping yourself isolated, living in your own fear doesn’t get you where you want to be. Reaching out and asking for help does.
    • It’s about believing in yourself, in spite of whatever fear or threat you might have running in your head, putting one foot in front of the other, and taking the steps needed.

    Ann Fry, MSW, PCC comes to the world of coaching via being a clinical social work psychotherapist. It gave her the foundation of human understanding. She’s been a college professor in three universities, speaks around the country and coaches executives in the US and abroad. Ann lived in NYC for the past ten years and has recently moved back to Austin, TX. Image courtesy of tiverylucky at

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