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87: How to lead with emotional courage – with Peter Bregman


If You’re Willing to Feel Everything, You Can Do Anything!

This week’s guest is bestselling author and one of Inc. Magazine Top 100 Leadership Speakers, Peter Bregman. Peter unlocks the secrets of highly successful leaders in his most recent book, Leading with Emotional Courage: How to Have Hard Conversations, Create Accountability, and Inspire Action on Your Most Important Work, which describes an overlooked and essential skill of leading at the highest levels: Emotional Courage.

Peter Bregman author of Leading with Emotional Courage: How to Have Hard Conversations, Create Accountability, and Inspire Action on Your Most Important Work

After 30 years of practice and exploration working with CEO’s, Peter observed the common thread holding a lot of people back. It’s the willingness to feel, what Peter refers to as emotional courage, because our willingness to feel underlies our ability to act.

Without emotional courage, leaders find it difficult to handle uncomfortable situations or hard conversations like taking or offering criticism or even letting someone go. He suggests imagining a hard conversation you’d like to have and consider why you’re not having it.

What stops most leaders from having those tough conversations doesn’t tend to be lack of opportunity, time, skill or knowledge. In those areas, most are well-equipped; but in addition, leaders must be willing to feel whatever emotions might result.

They must make themselves vulnerable to possible feelings of failure, embarrassment, shame, responsibility, even anger on either side of the conversation which can’t be avoided. For example, if you let someone go, can you sit in the room afterwards and deal with their emotions? If we’re not willing to feel these things, we won’t have the conversation.

The good news is, emotional courage is a skill and it can be learned. Peter addresses how to go about it in his book starting with what it takes to be a leader.

4 Elements of Leadership:

    • confidence in yourself
    • connection to others
    • commitment to purpose
    • emotional courage

Developing emotional courage is like developing a muscle, by using it. Peter has some great tips for taking small steps, small risks, in order to develop your emotional courage muscle.

One of the best is be willing to stand apart from the crowd. Every leader has got to do that.

More tips:

Meditation--Take that time to be who you are, giving you a sense of continuity, helps build your confidence.

Connecting with others--Think of a person you want to appreciate for whatever reason. Get in touch and thank them. Don’t do or say anything else.

Commitment to purpose — Say no. Some things are a distraction from what you need to achieve. Saying no to those things will keep you on the right track. If done skilfully, it can also build your connections with others.

A little step each day, builds your emotional courage.

Don’t Confuse Expressing Emotions with Emotional Courage

Emotions can become messy and out of control. Sometimes the emotions we express might be masking the emotions we’re feeling. Anger, for example, is a common one which might emerge when we're feeling sad, upset, or unappreciated.

It’s best to have no boundaries around emotional courage (willingness to feel) but to be strategic about what emotions you express.

Favourite advice from Peter:

"Be who you are and become who you want to be."

Four Seconds to Change Your Life

To listen to my previous conversation with Peter about his last book, Four Seconds to Change Your Life, click the link to the podcast.

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Click here to leave a review and/or listen to some more episodes.


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