Your route to the top: Become a brave leader

Feel the fear. Helen Keller once said: 'Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.' Courageous leaders experience as much fear as others; they just don't let it paralyse them. Replace 'I can't' with 'I will'.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Say it like it is. Authentic communication can be a challenge, especially when the message is tough, or you don't believe in it. But what people want is the truth. This doesn't mean being perfect, it just means doing your best to be real, warts and all.

Have hope. Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His last lecture could have been a depressing experience; instead it was life-affirming. Look to the future, no matter how turbulent the current circumstances. As Pausch himself said: 'Brick walls are there to remind you how much you want something.'

Talk to yourself. Challenge your catastrophic fantasies. Give answers to your 'what ifs?'. Scrutinise any unhelpful thoughts.

Don't give up. From M&S's Sir Stuart Rose to Pret's Julian Metcalfe, turnaround champions and entrepreneurs alike agree on one thing: persistence lies at the heart of success.

Stand tall. In a world of consensus-building and endless collaboration, brave leaders inspire their followers with decisive action. To be brave is to be in control. Put an end to dithering and offer clear direction to your team.

Live a vital life. Great athletes tend to project enormous vitality. So do great leaders. Create an infectious mood and win over the cynics - as well as invigorating the evangelists.

Be humble with success. In his book Good to Great (Random House, 2001) Jim Collins demonstrates a negative correlation between the fame of a CEO and their business performance. Ask for honest feedback, let others shine and selectively share weaknesses. Top leaders build enduring greatness through professional will and personal humility.

- 'The Mind Gym: Give me time' is published by Time Warner Books (£12.99). Contact the firm at

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime