Where does the courage come in?

I fairly recently went to an event on Women’s Leadership Careers organised by the Chartered Management Institute’s (CMI) Women in Management (WiM) Network. The keynoter was none other than CMI’s CEO Ann Francke, an remarkably dynamic and engaging speaker.

Ann shared her wealth of knowledge and experience about progressing in the ranks of organisations as a female member of staff. Among the many things she referred to was the 3 C’s: Competence, Confidence and Connections – the important components in order to get noticed and to ensure your mark in your field. She recommends keeping a list of your competencies and your accomplishments. Have confidence in yourself – avoid the tiara syndrome, i.e. waiting for someone to notice you, and the sorry skirts, connoting apologising for yourself. And the ever important C – connections – reach out to people. Look for colleagues and managers who can guide you, advise you and “sponsor” you.

As I was taking all this in, words of Sir Winston Churchill rang so true: “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities . . . because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” I add ‘courage’ as the 4th C to Ann’s list.

Courage could be the stepping stone to acknowledging your competencies, to speak up to the person at the office, who you want to connect with. And the courage to leave when you know something is not working – it could be a job that does not nurture your capacities, a relationship that does not support you in achieving your targets. It takes courage to review a past project and to be honest with yourself about what went great and what could have been done better.

It requires courage to lead a team, to disband a team and to implement change when it is needed. However, courage is not about being abrasive. It is very much about being gently assertive with yourself and taking that one extra step – making your competencies list or drawing on your confidence to connect with a colleague. After all, Churchill also purported that “courage is what it requires to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Reetu Kansal