Corporate Courage

It’s not easy out there for those managing small businesses. Never before have businesses had to navigate such a complex and rapidly changing world. Indeed, the current Brexit debacle is now being described as a challenging ‘VUCA’ scenario. VUCA being the US military acronym coined during the cold war, which stands for: Volatility; Uncertainty; Complexity and Ambiguity!

How can small businesses steer their people through such unchartered waters?

There’s lots of talk about managing change and teaching resilience, but I think businesses need to go one step further and look at developing their Corporate Courage, to increase their chances of achieving sustained business success in the most turbulent of times.

What is Corporate Courage?

I first came across the term ‘Corporate Courage’ a few years ago when reading a CMI article by business psychologist, Adrian Furnham. He believed that courageous leaders inspired courage in others, from standing up to bullies to going the extra mile. He went on to indentify four different types: 

  • Interpersonal courage – to deliver difficult messages and tackle performance issues
  • Risk-taking courage –  to take calculated risks when required
  • Moral courage – to not compromise on business ethics
  • Physical courage – to remain strong

How can you encourage a Courageous mindset?

Fear can be a healthy reaction that helps channel motivation and innovation, but it can equally lead to caution, mistrust and avoidance. Being courageous is the ability to confront danger despite feeling the negative effects of fear. Practice these ideas and share them with your team:


Recognise and accept that you are operating in unpredictable and rapidly changing environments. Understand that not everything will be predictable or controllable and that sometimes you will need to take calculated risks.


Ensure you build a supportive infrastructure to help you handle difficult decisions and setbacks:

  • Reinforce and communicate company ethics
  • Invest time in formulating contingency plans for worst-case scenarios
  • Build a diverse team of people with differing complementary skills and experiences
  • Develop techniques for managing stress, including a focus on good nutrition, exercise and rest
  • Encourage curiosity, initiative and experimentation to ensure new ideas and techniques can be nurtured and shared
  • Develop a culture of openness to allow the voicing of concerns and sharing of unpopular viewpoints
  • Seek out opportunities to collaborate and learn with others, including contractors, suppliers and even competitors
  • Use feedback loops to learn from mistakes and continuously develop

Courage comes in many different shapes and forms, but small businesses that recognize and support the importance of courage, will remain versatile and be far better placed to make the bold moves necessary to strengthen their chance of success.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” —Nelson Mandela


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