Fill ‘Em With Courage
I’ve long believed that the primary responsibility of every leader is to create opportunities for others. In my early work around courage-building, I connected this to the idea that every leader should encourage those they lead to get out of their comfort zone and into their courage zone. As Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, CEO of IBM, says, “Growth and comfort do not coexist.”
The solemn duty of every leader is to leave people better off than he or she found them. Doing that means being an encourager and developer of people. Opportunity matters too. Ideally, a leader provides people with skill-stretching opportunities then encourages them to work through the discomfort that pursuing such opportunities nearly always entails. In the process of pursuing challenging opportunities – with the leader’s encouragement and support – people grow and develop.
Leaders who pay a lot of attention to encouraging and developing people as they nudge them into discomfort are what I call Fillers – because they fill people with confidence and courage. What do I call leaders who do the opposite? Spillers. Why? Because by injecting people with fear and anxiety they cause people to be discouraged.
There’s a good chance you’ve encountered a Filler along the way. Think of a boss who encouraged your own growth and development. Did they believe in your potential and offer you challenging opportunities? Did they solicit your ideas and input? Did they give and share credit for successes you contributed to? Did they give their support or provide “air cover” during trying times? If they did, then you’ve worked for a Filler. The question becomes, how about you? Are you a Filler or a Spiller for the people you’re leading or influencing? Here are three ways you can be a Filler to those you lead.
- Focus on Their Career Goals. It’s not enough to focus on having people work in service to the goals of the organization or project. Identify the goals, skills and experiences that your employees desire to have, and then do everything you can to support them as they move forward.
- Share Your Courage Stories. Most Fillers are reformed Spillers. Share stories about your own evolution as a leader, especially if the evolution involved progressing from immature fear-stoking leadership to a more mature encouraging style of leadership. A lot of people work with fear, and then transmit that fear to others. Your own career progression can serve as a reminder that courage makes for more effective leadership than fear.
- Fill them up just right. Too many leaders make the mistake of trying to put 100 gallons of courage in a 10-gallon bucket. Be careful not to overwhelm people by expecting them to demonstrate courage beyond their capacity to do so. Instead, put courage inside a person at a rate they can absorb and to a level to which they are comfortable.
Bill Treasurer is the chief encouragement officer of Giant Leap Consulting, a courage-building consultancy. His latest book is Leaders Open Doors which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. He is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, an international bestselling book that introduces the concept of courage-building. He is also the creator of an off-the-shelf courage-building toolkit titled, Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace. Bill worked with thousands of executives from organizations such as NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, Spanx, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, the CDC, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. To learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.