Five tips to nurture courageous leaders

Fran Borg Wheeler shares her top tips to help learning practitioners encourage bold leadership

The world is crying out for courageous leaders who can stand up for what they believe in, and make bold decisions which challenge the status quo. We need great role models who take good care of themselves, their staff and their charity’s users.

Courageous leaders take risks, embrace challenges and navigate uncertainty with resilience. This, in turn, increases their impact. Much like a physical muscle, with a little practice your leaders can strengthen their courage. 

Here are my five top tips for learning and development (L&D) practitioners to nurture bold leadership through development and coaching programmes.

1. Build reflection into leadership programmes

A courageous leader is driven by their own and their organisation’s values and vision, which then guide their direction and decisions like a North Star. Encourage leaders to take the time to look within themselves, to identify their core values and their professional vision. To what extent are these aligned with your organisation’s values and vision? 

Leaders will need to communicate these consistently and passionately to their teams. When leaders believe in a vision, authenticity and confidence will shine through. This helps everyone work towards a common organisational purpose. A cohesive team’s ability to deliver its mission is unmatched. 

Top tip: Include an element of reflection on vision and values within any leadership development programme, along with the skills to communicate and inspire colleagues to embrace these fundamentals.

2. Make wellbeing a priority

The word courage comes from the French for heart: la coeur. Courageous leadership involves listening to your heart and meeting your own needs, not just serving others. 

Leaders need to role model good self-care, as well as communicate their intention to prioritise self-care for all employees. Encouraging and supporting leaders to recognise that they can’t serve others from an empty fuel tank will also boost their results. Learning to take care of your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing requires commitment and patience and will involve setting clear boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance. By committing to meeting their own needs, they’ll be cultivating the strength and resilience to face the multiple challenges that come their way – with a cool head and open heart. They will also be inspiring others to do the same.

Top tip: Signing up to holistic employee assistance programmes and incorporating wellness into your training is a great place to start. 

3. Create coaching and/or mentoring opportunities

From my own experience in leadership roles, and from coaching other leaders, I’ve found that the limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves can present a major block to courageous leadership. They may show up as self-doubt, fear or low confidence. Encourage leaders to be more aware of what their limiting beliefs are, and how they are playing out in their role. This can help them unlock their ability to be more courageous. Looking for evidence to counter limiting beliefs can support this process. 

Top tip: Offering managers the opportunity to access coaching and/or mentoring – either inhouse or from a register of approved coaches as the Alzheimers Society does – is one way of supporting your staff to overcome limiting beliefs and to develop courageous leadership skills.

4. Embrace a growth mindset

Being more courageous requires leaders to be intentional about stepping out of their comfort zone, in order to learn new skills, be innovative and take calculated risks. This isn’t always easy! But empowering them to develop new skills, rather than shying away from challenges, will enable them to expand their leadership capabilities. This should also hopefully inspire their teams to courageously push beyond their own perceived limitations.

Top tip: Help leaders create an action plan to build on their strengths and develop their skills in a particular area of their role. Perhaps they’re great communicators but are nervous about public speaking, like I used to be. Or they might feel intimidated when speaking to their line manager and need to learn how to express themselves more freely. 

5. Encourage leaders to be more vocal

Courageous leaders must be willing to put their heads above the parapet – to be seen and heard, to advocate for others and themselves. Irrespective of who your audience is, being courageous involves deep listening, empathetic responses and clear messaging. Developing trusting professional relationships with stakeholders is key to being able to deliver difficult messages in a way which can be heard and received well. 

Encouraging emerging and aspiring leaders to be seen and heard helps create a culture that builds psychological safety, with diverse perspectives and constructive challenges, one in which everyone feels empowered to speak up and embrace their own courage. 

Being seen and heard also allows leaders to challenge the status quo and bring about positive change. Amplifying unheard voices and providing opportunities for others to be seen and heard is a key responsibility of courageous leaders, alongside establishing their own platform of influence.

Top tip: Some practical ways for L&D practitioners to help everyone be seen and heard in the workplace include: 

  • Asking leaders to welcome new starters on induction programmes
  • Including equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in leadership programmes
  • Asking leaders to champion EDI whenever possible, for example by attending the start of EDI events and programmes

Courageous leadership is a continuous journey of growth and self-discovery. By encouraging leaders to embrace these tips, you’ll empower them to thrive in the face of challenges and create a positive impact in your organisation and beyond. Harnessing the power of courage will enable your leaders to lead with integrity, inspire their teams and achieve extraordinary results.

About Fran

Fran Borg-Wheeler is the Founding Director of Heart-Centred Leaders. She is a qualified coach, charity consultant, team facilitator and former Charity CEO. Find out more about developing courageous leadership skills via leadership 1:1 and group coaching or workshops in your organisation at  


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