By @SimonCocking review of Leading with Emotional Courage: How to Have Hard Conversations, Create Accountability, and Inspire Action on Your Most Important Work. By Peter Bregman. Published August 2018 by Wiley. £22.99/ US$28.00/ EUR 25.50. Hardcover and e-book. Available here.

It’s not about knowing what to say or do. It’s about whether you are willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of saying or doing it.

If you are willing to feel everything, you can do anything.

Leading with Emotional Courage is the essential guide for developing emotional courage and increasing your freedom to act. Bregman makes the counterintuitive but compelling argument that when you avoid feeling – and most of us avoid feeling – it’s a huge drain on your productivity and directly affects your personal and organisational results. And by building the courage to say the necessary but difficult things, you become a stronger, more effective person.

Leading with Emotional Courage  draws on the writings of Bregman’s popular blogs for Harvard Business Review. Each short, easy to read chapter provides real-world advice for building your emotional courage muscle, giving you grounded advice for handling difficult situations while building your leadership presence.

The incredibly practical Leading with Emotional Courage will help you speak up when others remain silent, maintain your ground in the face of uncertainty, respond productively to opposition without getting distracted, and deal with others’ anger without shutting down or getting defensive. It will transform your capability to act powerfully and courageously in your life, in your work, and in the world.

This is an interesting book, because it is trying to get beneath the skin of what it takes to be a really good leader, and how to assess if you are actually able to go to the places that you normally chose to avoid. The places where, in hindsight, you probably should have been able to go, but it was harder, more awkward and less easy to do so, and so, like most of us, you prefer to skip the difficult conversation – but at a longer term cost. There are people who often grumble and say negative things about other people, but when then challenged on them, rather than take responsibility for their own words and actions, they rather deny that they did those things. We all know lots of people like this, it is the easier path to take, but it is a more cowardly and weaker path to follow.

Bregman is very much all about trying to help us to create operational structures and methods to be able to become self-aware to first recognise this behaviour, and then secondly to actually take the more emotionally mature responses to deal with the issues that arise. It may seem like we have delved into a world of self-help and new age issues, but the reality is that as more and more of our working tasks are automated. It becomes increasingly likely that the remaining roles and challenges for humans will be how they successfully interact with and manage other humans! So it’s time to get with the program, gruff, non-engagement, not accepting who and how you are, and how you treat others, is now becoming increasingly one of the most important business skills you can have.

Bregman is still conscious that he has not always got it right, and is more than aware of the ongoing battle for quality time with family and children versus screen time versus work time. This does not make for a weaker argument, rather a positive illustration that it is a challenge we are all facing and will need to engage with more and more as the digital world is designed to be as compelling and sticky as possible.

We enjoyed this book, found it useful, and, if you don’t want to be the skulking passive aggressive human 1.0 in the corner it might just be a useful book for you too.


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