In order to grow and achieve the next level in every area of your life, you must make it a priority to develop yourself as a leader. Effective leaders achieve great things because they are aware that growth and achievement must come from enhanced overall performance, and that enhanced performance can only come from the development of untapped potential.


As I discuss in The Tripping Point in Leadership, an important part of leadership development is mastering the personal powers of choice, vision, attraction, and courage. These are all vital in developing effective leadership skills, but I believe emotional courage to be the most important personal power of the effective leader.


Emotional courage is your personal, conditioned capacity to respond with positive actions rather than negative beliefs to all life events. It is the fuel for the fires of positive expectancy; it dares to dream; it is contagious; it stands tall with optimism when everyone else is losing theirs; it faces its blind spot and says, “I can improve.” Emotional courage faces fears with an I-will-win attitude and never wastes time placing blame because it sustains itself with personal accountability.


How can you develop emotional courage?


Those leaders with the developed capacity of emotional courage respond to doubt and fear with positive actions rather than negative beliefs. To develop emotional courage, you must redirect your thinking and alter your attitude about yourself and your circumstances. I suggest following four steps to develop emotional courage.


#1 — Believe In Your Potential


It is difficult to be courageous when you do not believe in yourself. Your current capacities and abilities may not be sufficient to address your current circumstance or situation, but you have the untapped potential to handle any circumstance or situation.



Make a list of your top five personal strengths, starting with the greatest strength. Then find a trusted friend or mentor to review your list and confirm or add to it. As an effective leader, you should build on your strengths rather than focus on your weaknesses. The degree of your success and achievement in life is determined by how well you develop your potential and use your strengths.


#2 — Develop a Healthy Attitude Toward Mistakes, Failures, and Negative Outcomes 


These things often throw the average person for a loop. However, in the real world of life, it is common to make mistakes and actually fail, and there will always be negative circumstances over which you may not have any control. Failing at something is a common event, but seeing yourself as a failure comes from your past conditioning of fear and insecurity. Your circumstances never define who you are…your actions do. To develop emotional courage, you must start with a healthy attitude toward all life events, both the good and the bad.


The smallest beginnings are better than the greatest intentions, so get started by writing a statement describing how you will positively respond to the next negative outcome. You cannot control all the circumstances of life, but you must control your responses to those circumstances. Emotional courage to the effective leader is a predetermined, productive mindset toward negative events and circumstances.  


#3 — Break Out of Your Negative Past Conditioning By Exercising Your Power of Choice


I talk with people every day who seem to be trapped in self-fulfilling prophecy of their own design. They experience failure, procrastination, indecisiveness, and fear. Our past conditioning sometimes leads us in undesirable directions. We can change that by exercising our power of choice. We have the freedom to choose our responses to life.


Our thoughts are simply choices that design our futures, and we are 100% in control of those thoughts.

Thoughts lead to habits, and habits lead to behaviors. To develop emotional courage, you must break out of your current conditioning by consciously choosing to act courageously.


#4 — Redesign Your Attitudes by Displacement


Everyone has some fear of failure. Unfortunately, the fear of failure usually leads to negative attitudes and behaviors and causes us to protect ourselves by blaming or procrastinating. We rationalize that if we never play the game, we will never lose. But this rationalization causes us to never even try, which is obviously self-defeating. To develop emotional courage, we must displace rationalization. 


The theory of displacement says that you can exchange your thoughts of rationalization for productive thoughts of emotional courage. It is like replacing dirty water in a glass by continuously filling the glass with clean, fresh water. The new displaces the old. Consciously practice this process by displacing every negative rationalization with fresh, positive thoughts of courage.


Developing emotional courage is not easy, but it is a necessary journey for the effective leader. Take the above steps today to further your development as an effective leader, and you will most certainly reap the benefits of growth, success, and next-level achievement.   




Inspiring genuine growth and achievement in leaders, David Byrd has 30 years of experience working with top business executives and their organizations. He is a master of effective leadership and works closely with leaders worldwide to maximize their leadership potential. For more information about The Next-Level Achievement System® or David’s book, Achievement – A Proven System For Next Level Growth, visit
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