21st Century Courage

For real, removing a headphone jack from a smartphone is now “courage”. I bet Twain is rolling in his grave.

We all know it’s merely a marketing ploy. No one on earth would consider that move “courageous”. Heck, much more colorful words have been said! But it got a lot of people thinking about what courage really is.

Twain had a more socially conscious view of courage. It was all about dealing with your fear so that your fear doesn’t debilitate you.  Maybe that was courage in the 20th century? Maybe today it’s about shock, awe, marketing, and exclusivity?

#21stCenturyCourage is removing the headphone jack. Not.

Courage is still a required and valuable trait for humans. Courage is taking the fears that come up and dealing with them, learning from them, and moving beyond them. Getting through your fears so they don’t control you… that’s courage.

As a leader, courage is exercising this for yourself, and being a support person for those you lead. Recognizing the fears that exist and conquering them as a team, or partnership. It’s far harder to do this than one might think.

Some quick tips on being a courageous leader (remember everyone leads someone, even if it’s their own inner self):

  • Learn to recognize fear. How does it manifest itself in you, or those you lead? How do you feel it?
  • Learn to accept fear. Ignoring anything, other than trolls, rarely solves the root cause problem. Fear is a natural human response and emotion. It’s normal, and healthy, to experience fear.
  • Know that fear, or any emotion, does not automatically dictate your response. You choose how to respond to your emotions.
  • Make yourself aware of your initial, and often reflexive, response. Is it a response that is in furtherance of a goal or objective? Is it self-destructive? Consider how the response makes you feel and affects what you do.
  • Choose the most productive response. If you’ve already been responding productively, great! However, if you find yourself responding to fear with hesitation, doubt, self-destructive actions, or any other negativity, use this opportunity to create a new response. When this particular type of fear comes up again, choose your new response. Do it often enough and it will become a habit!

Courage is taking fear and using it to evolve, progress, learn, succeed. I suppose Apple looked at their fear of removing the headphone jack (knowing how much it would bother most people and fearing the repercussions) and decided to not let it stop them from creating a proprietary and completely non-standard format to use external speakers and microphones. It’s a very loose interpretation of courage, but an interesting way to see how leaders can take something they’ve done to benefit their sole and individualistic needs, despite their fears that it may hurt others and create backlash. Yes… they had fear, and they overcame it. Technically courage.

But when we talk about courage, especially courageous leadership, would we want to use this as an example? Many would say no… why? Because we usually look for altruistic solutions to overcome both personal and professional fear. We expect them to better us as individuals by making us stronger and better members of society. We expect them to better us as a team by finding solutions that further a more socially focused goal. When we use courage to define us going against a multi-decade standard and create a propriety way to do something everyone who owns a smartphone does… we don’t seem to agree it was courage.

Courage can be viewed by others as arrogance, greed, ego, control. When others view your courage differently, does it matter?

My answer is this: You choose your response. Your responses are in furtherance of your goals. Your goals make you a better you. Your goals are authentic and aligned with your morals and values.

If your response to fear fits into that answer… I’d say you’re being courageous. If it doesn’t, find that alignment. Your head, heart and soul will thank you.


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