Courage Intelligence – Leadership for the Future

Jan 08, 2024 11 Min Read
leader taking a courageous step forward over a cliff

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Explore the Evolving Landscape of Courageous Leadership in a Changing World.

With the world changing and evolving, more and more people are looking for courageous leaders who are empathetic to their plight, understand the social and economic crisis facing us, and can rise up to the challenge and take us forward globally. Courageous leadership is needed as a matter of urgency, to move us all forward in empowering ways for the future.

Many thought leaders in the leadership space are also re-enforcing this need and it is backed up by research. Accenture’s 2020 COVID-19 research, which was aimed at improving societal and environmental outcomes, has shown the need for greater leadership responsibility. Rebecca Schambaugh, CEO and thought leader, refers to the need for courage, curiosity and resilience as a leadership ritual.

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?

       - Vincent Van Gough

With the pandemic, there has also been a large focus on the need to improve workplace conditions. People have been working remotely and are moving back into offices: the expectation is very high from staff and in many cases rightly so!

In addition, around the globe there are new developments brewing based on the war for talent and great leadership. It is pivotal for leaders and companies to look at their leadership and culture now more than ever before with a revitalised and courageous approach.

As a leader for future generations, it’s important to consider where a difference can be made and how leaders can go about that. Knowing where to start a leadership journey is about being very clear on previous outcomes covering performance, successes and then, what can be done differently. Research indicates that there are significant gaps in Australian and Global Leadership (identified by the SAL report on Leadership in Australia) and this is a great start to establishing a new leadership approach. 

Businesses also are the beating heart of the economy and strong courageous leadership is needed to survive turbulent times, whether it’s current or future events. Because strong leadership is needed to steer us out of this storm.

As a leader, have you ever had a great business idea and you either didn’t start it or went ahead and it failed? You are not alone! However, there have been many businesses who have struggled, failed, reset themselves and then achieved total success. Because they kept trying and had mountains of courage!

In response to the pandemic, The World Economic Forum has launched its Great Reset initiative – a commitment to build, jointly and urgently, the foundations of our economic and social system for a fairer, more sustainable and more resilient future.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. 

       - John F. Kennedy

This is an opportunity to learn from some of the best business innovators and accelerate businesses to success!

Every day in some small way within a leader’s sphere of influence, you can go beyond your comfort zone, connect with an empowering team and lead to success. Today, consider what else you need to do to step up, lead with courage and become a future leader who will change the course of history! 

Rebecca Shambaugh, CEO and thought leader indicates that having courage is about taking calculated and intelligent risks to pursue the greater good. Developing skills as a courageous leader starts with acknowledging small things each and every day which will culminate in an unstoppable high-performance team that can make a huge impact.

In a volatile business world, how did you respond to the situations that occur? Some of us may have either experienced not having work, receiving a surprise redundancy package or, worse still, being fired!

If you were completely honest about how you felt, I am sure it would highlight some interesting emotions and responses! To develop more insight on how we can address these situations, Sanyin Siang suggests using leadership lessons from the military as they are effective leaders with leadership lessons we can apply into our own lives.

In her book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin studied the lives of several U.S. presidents who led the nation through tremendous national crises. Reflecting on this book provides excellent lessons for your future leadership! 

The Need For Courage Intelligence 

Small acts of courage and kindness is where the journey to true Leadership begins! Have you thought about how you can make a difference at work, in your community or globally? What do you feel is the defining point that will make this happen? The World Economic Forum highlights that “Young leaders are showing us the way.” The challenges of 2022/23 are opening our eyes to the need for values-based leadership and when we lead with courage we gather followers for a common cause and things will happen. Your leadership journey can be the change you want to see!

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value. 

       - Albert Einstein

In establishing courageous leadership, lessons from the past assist us. Sabina Nawaz a Forbes contributor, mentions that Martin Luther Kings’ leadership was represented through the culmination of a thousand smaller acts of bravery that came before it. And Albert Einstein had a profound impact on our understanding of the universe and his work is being used to move us into new frontiers today through his leadership.

Innovation is leading us in new directions, many of them being driven by technology and A1. When we look at some of the incredible inventions that have occurred in history, the human element to change and innovation cannot be overlooked or disregarded. Each and every one of us has the capability to re-invent and innovate and create a new world that will serve future generations to come. As a leader, you have the opportunity to make a difference with inspiring innovation. And Leaders in the 21st century need intelligence. Leadership intelligence relies on your ability to grow, learn and master new ways to lead people through focussed attention. Give yourself this opportunity now to reflect, redesign and lead the way through intelligent leadership skills! 

The Way Forward For Organisations

As we move forward towards a post- pandemic future a revitalised and courageous leadership approach will need to continue and expand considering the ongoing volatility globally and to create sustainability for the future.

Even during hard times, we have seen excellent examples of business leaders adapting, changing direction and re-inventing their businesses to meet the challenges that have arisen. However, we need to continue these practices and make them the norm in all places of business.

A Gartner Inc., 2021 research survey shows that the Number One Leadership Priority in 2022 will be Building Critical Skills and Competencies.

A great leader is someone who has the courage to easily adapt to changing environments, rises to the challenge, leads by example, who motivates and empowers their team to achieve their best, be a greater communicator, welcomes innovation and strategic thinking and encourages kindness and empathy. This pandemic will pave the way to encouraging more leaders to be positive and forward thinkers. Now is the time to be an extraordinary leader.

So how can you take back control of your leadership? Courage will be our edge in 2023 and beyond. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the mastery of it. Building your CQ requires you to act with courage even when you are scared. To embrace the fear to move into courage knowing with all your heart and soul that it is worth it.

Courageous leadership is about influencing others to do more, learn more and be more. Leadership is influence. In turn, leadership and courage is about making an impact and difference no matter how small.

It doesn’t matter how much money, success or power you have. What truly matters is the impact we can all make and having the courage to leave that impact; make that difference.

The CQ Model will provide future focussed leaders with an opportunity to build their courage as a skill based on 5 key elements.

Don’t let another year go past without investing in your leadership and your team – it will give you the edge for 2023 Leadership and beyond! 

Read: Be Strong and Courageous

The LeadershipHQ Solution – The Courage Intelligence Model

The Courage Intelligence Program to provide future focussed leaders with an opportunity to build their courage as a skill.


Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. 

       - John F Kennedy

The importance of having a purpose lies in the fact that it will allow you to organise yourselves better to know how to work or act and your intent, the reasons behind your courage or the why/emotion behind it. When you know where you are going courageously, you can set goals that fit and align with your long-term goals. Hence, this assures that you are on the right path. Your purpose inspires your actions. They stimulate you, and they encourage you, they move you to do. They push you to climb steps and the bar of your effort. Having a clear purpose allows you to reorient yourself if you get lost or don’t know what to do. It makes all your effort be directed towards a particular goal. In short, they give meaning to your effort and bring results.

To build, transform and inspire great leadership, teams and companies across the globe.

Successful people know what their goals are and perform the daily actions and acts of courage that are necessary to achieve those purposes. Time is limited and is the same for everyone. And since time is limited, perhaps you should ask yourself what you can do to make the most of it. It is also essential to note that people have a purpose in their lives, which is the engine that leads them to face challenges and difficulties to achieve that purpose. Every day, you have opportunities to make the necessary changes that allow you to improve your quality of life. So what are you waiting for to take control of your life? Why don’t you spend a few minutes now deciding what you want to do with your life and leadership? Purpose is fundamental in Courage Intelligence


Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the mastery of it. Building your Courage IntelligenceTM requires you to act with courage even when you are scared. To embrace the fear to move into courage knowing with all your heart and soul that it is worth it. Courageous leadership is about influencing others to do more, learn more and be more. 

Leadership is influence. In turn, leadership and courage is about making an impact and difference no matter how small. It doesn’t matter how much money, success or power you have. What truly matters is the impact we can all make and having the courage to leave that impact; make that difference. 


You don’t need to be the smartest in the class to be successful. I definitely wasn’t – however I had GRIT and tenacity. In our research we believe GRIT is important in our Courage Intelligence and love the work of Angela Duckworth.

Courage….it takes courage to be a leader.

While courage is hard to measure, it is directly proportional to your level of grit. More specifically, your ability to manage fear of failure is imperative and a predicator of success. The supremely gritty are not afraid to tank, but rather embrace it as part of a process. They understand that there are valuable lessons in defeat and that the vulnerability of perseverance is requisite for high achievement.

Teddy Roosevelt, a Grand Sire of Grit, spoke about the importance of overcoming fear and managing vulnerability in an address he made at the Sorbonne in 1907. He stated: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strived valiantly; who errs, who comes again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. 


Our Courage Intelligence Model and Research is taking the world by storm because we need Courage and Empathy more than ever before. Why? Research shows Empathy Contributes to Positive Outcomes.

But as we go through tough times, struggle with burnout or find it challenging to find happiness at work, empathy can be a powerful antidote and contribute to positive experiences for individuals and teams. A new study of 889 employees by Catalyst found empathy has some significant constructive effects:

Innovation. When people reported their leaders were empathetic, they were more likely to report they were able to be innovative—61% of employees compared to only 13% of employees with less empathetic leaders. Engagement. 76% of people who experienced empathy from their leaders reported they were engaged compared with only 32% who experienced less empathy.

Retention. 57% of white women and 62% of women of colour said they were unlikely to think of leaving their companies when they felt their life circumstances were respected and valued by their companies. However, when they didn’t feel that level of value or respect for their life circumstances, only 14% and 30% of white women and women of colour respectively said they were unlikely to consider leaving. 

Discover: What Could Happen If We Lived With Courage?


Authenticity is proposed as one of the core aspects of courage intelligence which is needed to build trust and courage because of its clear focus on the positive role modelling of honesty, integrity, and high ethical standards in the development of leader-follower relationships. In turn, do you make others feel psychologically safe to be authentic, courageous, and honest at work? This starts with you. 

Living in line with your values and principles are key to being authentic. Values and principles should guide your choices and decisions, so knowing what they are is critical. Make a list of all the values and principles you care about and rank them in order of importance to you. Think about these in the context of leadership. For example, if you rated family as a core value, how does that show up for you in the workplace? As a leader, are you aware of and understanding of the family responsibilities of the people you manage? As a CEO, are the company policies family-friendly? Do you know the names of your employees’ spouses and children? Do you ask about them? If you realise that your behaviour as a leader is not aligned with your core values, re-evaluate how to incorporate them. Misalignment is a key indicator that you are not being authentic.

It takes authenticity to develop and grow Courage Intelligence. 

Courage Intelligence (CQ) Model & Program

Like any leadership skill, courage is something that is learned and refined over time and it should form part of a leader’s inventory. Many Leaders are wanting to know how to build courage and take themselves forward to new directions of success that will have lasting impact. The Courage Intelligence framework forms part of our Coaching, Executive, Emerging, and Women in Leadership programs to provide future focused leaders with an opportunity to build their courage as a skill. It transforms the way you think about courage within leadership and builds your skills as a courageous leader.

This article was originally published in LeadershipHQ.

Edited by: Kiran Tuljaram

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Sonia is CEO of LeadershipHQ and has vast experience in organisational development, learning and development, facilitating, and leadership development. She is passionate about building long term partnerships with her clients and making sure she achieves the best results for their business and people.

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