Embrace personal courage in your leadership

Dive into your own journey of courageous leadership! Discover the obstacle that could be getting in the way of achieving true personal courage in your leadership.

Steffan Surdek
August 28, 2023
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Leadership is a complex and demanding responsibility. It requires more than just technical skills or experience. More and more in the workplace, leaders are also being asked to develop their soft skills.

In the past couple of years working with clients, I realized something special. At the core of successful leadership lies a quality that sets great leaders apart from the rest: personal courage.

In this blog article, I will delve into the significance that personal courage has held in my own leadership in the past, as well as explore how you can embrace it to step into your own leadership and thrive.

What do I mean by courage in leadership?

Courage is one of those interesting words people like to talk about. Some people equate courage with fearlessness. I think it ties in better with bravery. Courage is not about being fearless in life, it is being able to acknowledge your fears and overcome them.

However, personal courage is not some grandiose act of bravery you carry out. It is a recognition of your own authenticity and vulnerability. It is about acknowledging your doubts and uncertainties and still stepping into your leadership.

When I coach my clients, I often say that leadership begins within yourself. Embracing personal courage means being true to our values and convictions, even in the face of adversity. The ability to face challenges, make tough decisions, and lead by example is what defines true courage in leadership.

How courage shapes your life

We sometimes seem to forget our lives reflect the various choices we make every single day. How do you choose to look at various situations in your life? Which conversations do you choose to have or not to have with others? What do you choose to tolerate or experience in the day-to-day? Making some of these choices requires more courage from you than others.

Courage often comes with a willingness to take responsibility for your life. It is easy to blame others for what is going on. It takes courage to recognize there is one constant in everything you do and face: yourself!

Storytime: my own personal courage journey

Living the life you want to lead is a very personal topic for me. For years professionally, I was able to step into my leadership and my employers and colleagues valued me for it. Imagine my surprise when one day, I changed jobs and suddenly, all this was no longer true. For a bit more than a year, I worked in a company where my managers ignored and snuffed my leadership skills. It turned me into a dormant leader for the first time in my career.

During the short time I was there, it felt like people were trying to make me forget I had leadership abilities. It occurred to me as if they wanted me to fall asleep and conform to my working environment. They did not want me to be the leader that I had the potential to be.

I often refer to that year as the worst in my professional career, but it forced me to take a closer look at myself. What was my leadership based on and how was I giving that experience to the people around me? Thinking back on it now, it was one of those crucible moments in my life that forced me to change and grow as a person.

The prison you create for yourself

When things get hard in your life, your own beliefs can create a prison for yourself without you even realizing it. Your limiting beliefs can form invisible walls that constrain you.

When I went through a one-year coaching course, I had a big personal breakthrough moment. I was speaking to a fellow participant about a difficult situation I was going through at the time.

At one point, I was sharing with him “the rules” that were blocking me from resolving it. He asked me some questions and challenged my beliefs. Through his questions, I came to realize I was following a set of rules that I had created by myself. Without realizing it, I created my own little prison cell that I lived in for many years. It was a really powerful moment for me.

Visually, it was as if the world around me faded away and I started seeing myself in a prison cell instead. When I looked around, I noticed the door to the cell had been wide open all that time, but I could never see it for myself. In a moment, I went from feeling powerless to feeling powerful instead. I no longer needed holding back because I could choose to step out of the prison my beliefs had created in my life.

Apply courage to your leadership

As a coach, I often ask my clients why they stay in situations that leave them dissatisfied. Here are some of the statements I hear a lot:

  • What other choice do I have?
  • It is easier for me to tolerate it.
  • No one ever listens to me anyway.
  • I am sure I will have the same problems everywhere.

Do any of these statements resonate with you? If so, would you consider why you are staying in your current situation? Are there reasons why you are stuck there, not making changes? What prison cell did you create for yourself?

Personal courage empowers leaders to tackle challenges rather than shying away from them. Could it be that sometimes, you hide your lack of courage by settling for a situation that makes you unhappy?


As you go further along on your leadership development journey, you will need to unleash your own personal courage. Once you start realizing your limiting beliefs, you will start to uncover the power within yourself.

Embracing your personal courage allows you to lead with authenticity and vulnerability. In turn, this will help you create a culture of trust with your teams. As a leader, when you walk the talk, you earn the respect and trust of your team, which creates a strong sense of engagement.

Remember, courageous leaders understand that courage is not the absence of fear... but acknowledging it in your pursuit of leadership!

What limiting beliefs are creating a prison for yourself as a leader? What could personal courage look like for you?