How to choose a courageous leader to vote for in upcoming elections

courage courageous Sep 10, 2018

Photo credit: Austin Chan, Unsplash

There are a lot of elections coming up and a lot of leaders out there asking for your support. In some situations every single vote will make a difference as candidates put forward vastly different platforms and look for you to be on their side.

It’s the sides that trouble me. Politics is often presented as a conversation between winners and losers, those who are for and those who are against a particular issue. No one wins in the long run when we are so divided that we leave half of us behind. More than ever we need leaders willing to cross lines, close the divide, and bring people together to solve the challenges we face. We’ve got some big challenges, and its going to take a leader with the ability to collaborate, inspire and have some tough conversations so we can move forward.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Your choices have long-term impacts on government policy, budget allocations and the community that gets created in the future. Choosing carefully matters. Using your voice to take action in support of a candidate you believe in to canvas, fundraise and speak to neighbours and friends contributes to the quality of the democracy we live in, and the quality of the candidates we get to vote for.

The system we’ve got isn’t perfect. In fact, it could be dramatically improved upon. However at the moment it’s the system we’ve got and it is far more open and connected to the views of citizens than many other systems.

So your vote matters — a lot.

I have a foundational belief that brave, honest conversations are how we solve the problems in our world and that the world needs a new kind of leader who stands for something, shows up and changes the world for the better. You want to vote for someone who stands for something you also believe in and who will work with others to create positive change.

In service to that core belief about brave, honest conversations and a new kind of leader I’ve done a lot of thinking the last few years about what a courageous leader looks like and created a framework of core competencies. I hope this helps you think about the candidates you want to work with going forward.

A model of Courageous Leadership, copyright The Courageous Leadership Project,

Commitment and Faith

Leaders know what they stand for, what they believe in and what they have unwavering commitment to. It is about their values and also more than that; it is those guiding foundational beliefs demonstrated by attitudes, behaviours and actions so that choices are aligned and leadership is deeply authentic. This component of courageous leadership builds positivity and possibility in the conversation with others and creates choices for the future. This mindset allows leaders to focus on what they stand for rather than what they are against.

When looking at candidates to support, ask yourself these questions:

  • What does the leader stand for?

  • What are they committed to?

  • Where do your values align with their values?

  • What attitudes and behaviours do they demonstrate that resonate with you?

  • What does the leader want more of, to build or create in the world?

Integrity and Courage

When a leader is acting from a place of integrity and courage they have clarity on what they want to create in the world and are brave enough to move towards it. They are aware of and responsible for their impact on others and the world around them, and work to have a positive impact.

Photo credit: Oliver Cole, Unsplash

A courageous leader is able to articulate the ethics and principles that guide their choice making in a transparent and open way. Integrity and courage combat fear and uncertainty in challenging situations and make people want to work together. Leaders who operate from integrity and courage have a deep well of self-awareness and stay the course when conflict or tension emerges.

When looking at candidates to support, ask yourself these questions:

  • What direction are their conversations and statements going? Towards positivity and openness or towards division and polarization?

  • How well do the leader’s actions and words align?

  • How does the leader respond when differences of viewpoints or conflict emerges?

  • How well do the leader’s responses under stressful situations align with the way you want to show up in the world?

  • What is the change the leader is advocating for? What will be different than it is right now?

Openness & Connection

Courageous leaders create a space around them that fuels connection, ideas and collaboration. They ask rather than tell and demonstrate actions that spark conversation, allow people with divergent views to connect and learn from each other, and build a sense of meaningful inclusion where people feel they matter.

A courageous leader creates experiences and a feeling you want to be part of because that vision reflects the world the way you also want it to be. The sense of connection and intimacy that we are in this together creates powerful momentum for positive change.

When looking at candidates to support, ask yourself these questions:

  • How does the leader make you feel? What emotions bubble up when you listen to or observe the leader?

  • Who does the leader surround herself / himself with? Is there a widely divergent group of supporters and partners who share different viewpoints, backgrounds and experiences?

  • Does the leader create a positive space to solve challenges with others, or solve challenges and ask others to react?

  • Is there a space in the leader’s future ideas and vision you can see yourself in?

  • Is the leader willing to be with uncertainty and work to find the right solution that works long-term?

Influence & Enrolling

Courageous leaders inspire and empower others to make a choice to participate, to be in relationship, to trust in a more positive future. Leaders authentically lead from their own unique set of values and beliefs, commit with courage to a vision and invite others to help make it real. Courageous leaders are willing to fail, to not have all the answers and to work with others to find durable solutions.

Leaders call for change, have clarity on the change they want to create in the world, take responsible actions towards that change and recognize they have bigger impact and create more momentum the more people there are who have an active role in the change agenda that is co-created.

When looking at candidates to support, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you feel like you could play an active role in the positive change the leader is calling for?

  • Does the leader bring new ideas to the table that challenge the status quo and offer new ways of thinking and acting?

  • Does the leader make you feel part of something and that solutions are possible?

  • Does the leader act from a mindset of invitation, advocating and empowering (rather than telling, dictating or deciding for others)?

Photo credit: Parker Johnson, Unsplash

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

The world needs a new kind of leader who stands for something, shows up and creates positive change in the world.

Your voice matters, and your vote does too.


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