Even within broadly permissive systems, there is a price of action: to be the one who deviates from an established norm, who challenges dogma or comfort, who seeks to build a movement.
Almost every aspect of our Organisations are geared up for consistency, conformity, replicability, and scale, under the auspices of formal power that is codified into a hierarchy, into taught wisdom, and the control of consequence.
But what if we need to create new spaces: spaces for ambiguity, spaces for challenge, and the capability to reach out into the silence to enable and empower those who are silent to find a voice.
Courage is not about shouting loudly: but may be about listening intently. It’s about understanding that there is a gap between our values, our intentions, our actions, and our impact, and that the four rarely align.
So in many ways, courage is not simply an outward facing trait, but an inward one: a courage to recognise our own failure: our failure to be fair, our failure to listen, or our failure to act when action is due.
I spoke to a friend in a global bank last week: she described how her last few weeks have been taken up with conversations about social justice and fairness. But what if the challenge is not to talk, but to act? It takes courage to take those steps.
Maybe as we evolve our Organisations, to become more Socially Dynamic, we should consider this: is courage a matter for an individual, or a trait we wish to engender more widely, and if the latter, by what mechanisms to we do it? Is courage inspired from the front, provoked from the back, or ultimately only found in crisis? Can you build a resilience of courage?
And do we want to? Should a system that is fair, that is good, that is effective, ever need it’s own people to be brave in order to change?