I spent a few days of my summer visiting Asheville, North Carolina and spending time with a friend.  I got to visit “America’s largest private house” – the Biltmore Estate, built by the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt who had made his fortune in railways.

My friend, Bill Treasurer has spent his life exploring, living and writing about Courage.  Courage, according to Aristotle, is the first virtue – because it makes all the other virtues possible.

In his recent book Courage Goes to Work, Bill tells us that Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to perform in the presence of fear.  Bill believes that courage is a teachable and learnable skill; and that everyone has the capacity to be courageous.

According to Bill, there are five telltale signs of a workplace that needs more courage:

  1. Covering your tail rules the day: Workers spend an inordinate amount of time covering their tails and generating “proof” that they are doing their jobs.
  2. The Emperors are Naked: Leaders are insulated from employee feedback and dangerously blind to themselves.
  3. Bean-Counters Rule: Financial acumen is valued more than creativity or innovation, causing decisions to be driven solely by “the numbers” versus what is in the long term best interests of the organisation.
  4. People are Hung for making smart mistakes: Mistakes are punished swiftly and harshly, creating a “play it safe at all costs” environment.  Workers end up hiding mistakes or, worse, blaming others for their own mistakes.
  5. Everything is perpetually urgent.  The work environment in fear-based organisations is fraught with urgency and anxiety.  In such places, regardless of their roles, everyone seems to have the same job: firefighter!
If some of these five signs resonate with you have a look at Bill’s article on “The three kinds of Executive Courage” on Forbes or his free summary of the book at his website GiantLeapConsulting.com.
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