One of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou speaks to the essence of courage. She writes, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” Courage is therefore an essential mindset to thrive as a leader. We need courage to embrace new opportunities and navigate difficult conversations. It takes courage to be original. Speaking my truth and showing up with my authentic self has required courage and vulnerability.
Wishing U Well Today, a blog that shares inspiration, knowledge, and discusses wellness, spirituality, and lifestyle, describes six types of courage:
Physical Courage – to keep going with resiliency, balance, and awareness;
Social Courage – to be yourself unapologetically;
Moral Courage – doing the right thing even when it’s uncomfortable or unpopular;
Emotional Courage – feeling all your emotions (positive and negative) without guilt or attachment;
Intellectual Courage – to learn, unlearn and relearn with an open and flexible mind; and
Spiritual Courage – living with purpose and meaning through a heart centered approach towards all life and oneself.
This means that every day we are presented with opportunities to choose and embrace courage.
As a facilitator and content developer for transformative leadership on sessions such as justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (JEDI-B), the art of self-care, and leadership mindsets, I often ask participants to reflect on a time when they were brave and courageous. The stories that emerge are powerful and the process presents opportunities to practice being courageous. I think of a time in graduate school when I was being racially profiled and I summoned the courage to speak truth to the professor who was profiling me. It took everything I had in me to push back, defying my cultural upbringing of “not questioning authority.” I was shaking and crying, but I was undaunted in my pursuit to call out the obvious racism and profiling — as Mary Anne Radmacher puts it, “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” This experience set the stage for how I show up today as an activist and advocate. Courage and curiosity were instrumental in me leaving Ghana (having lived all my life in Accra), to attend college in Decorah, Iowa — a small town with 5,000 people. It was also a gutsy decision to study in Guatemala as an African woman.
Courage is contagious. One small act of courage can turn ripples into waves and set you up for a series of other bold actions. Going through the reading journey as a Girl Child Long Walk to Freedom Fellow, I have embodied courage in various ways to dismantle patriarchy by naming some of the inequities in the church, starting with amplifying the feminine attributes of God. Through this lens, my Fellow project is aptly titled, “Bataan Pa Project ”, an Akan concept celebrating God equally as Mother-Father creator, redeemer, and sustainer. Reflecting deeper and personally, my mother comes to mind as the epitome and personification of courage. She provided me with the blueprints for living bravely, boldly and audaciously. It is from her I learned to embody being a whole woman, bringing all of who I am to every space and everything I am becoming. I want people to live courageously by “always being a bold and authentic version of themselves” — So take that step and Let courage lead the way!
Maame Afon is an internationally recognized thought leader and a passionate advocate for women, girls, and leaders. She uses her music to promote activism, social change, and philanthropy; and has leveraged her vast experience, principles of intersectionality, and passion for transformative leadership, facilitation, and impact coaching and mentoring to support organizations, including AWDF-USA (AfriWomen Network), Global Fund for Women, We Care Solar, Street Business School, Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, MILEAD Fellowship, African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative (AWEC), the Blue Lake Project and Nurturing Minds. She is a consummate networker and connector who also holds space for brave conversations. As a whole woman, she enjoys her calling as a mother, wife, and worship leader while also serving as founder and chief steward of MILT (Management for Impact Leadership & Transformation).