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Courageous employees have the character strength to say and do things that have to be done. Courageous employees are always ready to:

  • Tell managers what they need to know, even if they don’t want to hear it
  • Fight for their business and clients
  • Do what is necessary, however unpleasant
  • Ask for help

Obstacles to courage are the fear of being fired, fear of physical harm, fear of humiliation, fear of ruining a relationship, and fear that nothing good will come out of it.

Evaluating Courage

Here are two questions that can help you evaluate the courage in a candidate. These questions come from the work of Bill Treasurer, author of Courage Goes to Work.

  • Tell me about a situation when you had to disagree with an authority figure and stand your ground. Describe this situation. How did that person react, and what did you do?

Managers who ask these questions need to pay attention to how the person interviewed portrays themselves. A truthful response will probably include a sense of vulnerability. Courage doesn’t mean the absence of fear; on the contrary, fear goes together with doing courageous acts. Standing up to someone who is in a position of power would be frightening for most people.

If companies want to succeed, their leaders must be willing to handle disagreement, especially from their subordinates. A person who is ready to expose an injustice, such as a fraud, bullying in the workplace, or sexual harassment, is a high-character employee whose commitment to care, honesty, courage, and other moral qualities greatly helps their company clients, and themselves.

  • Tell me about a situation when a direct report pushed back on you and felt strongly about their position. Describe this situation. What did they say, and what did you do?

This question is supposed to help you get a sense of what type of leader the candidate is. Do they invite and encourage other people to speak their minds? It takes a strong leader to admit that there is a possibility that he or she made a mistake or hasn’t thought a matter through well enough.

The best leaders pride themselves in constructive disagreement and encourage principled pushback, which is a rare and admirable trait in corporate culture. They don’t want to be surrounded by yes people and sycophants. Otherwise, they’ll miss out on valuable information and feedback they need to make the best decisions. That’s why they should listen to people who have enough courage to resist going along with ignorant ideas. Having less authority and power could explain why direct reports don’t want to speak up every time something bothers them. It’s understandable, but it doesn’t justify it.

Discover the best way to help your employees build courage to do the right thing, consistently connect with your leadership team, and predictably turn them into highly engaged employees. Contact me for some complimentary advice or additional reading material. Book an appointment at or call me at +1 (604) 943-0800.

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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734