Living in the Arena: Courageous Leadership

‘If you are not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback!’        Brene Brown.

Living in the ‘Arena’ of leadership means you are going to get dirty; you are going to fail, and not everyone is going to agree with what you do or say. In my 25 years of leadership, I have had many wonderful moments, some not so wonderful moments and some absolute tragic moments. Thankfully the good outweighed the bad.

But what did I learn about the ‘Arena’?

I did not choose leadership; leadership chose me. I was the one in the staff meeting asking the big questions. ‘Why are we expected to attend staff meetings and not get paid?’ A popular question, according to my colleagues, a not so popular question, according to my boss! I quickly found myself surrounded by those colleagues who didn’t have the confidence to speak up and needed me to be their voice. It soon became apparent that the values of my work environment did not match the values I held for myself. For change to occur, I had to make a change. I chose to move on and find an Arena that valued the same things I did.

During my time teaching at TAFE, I was asked by a student, ‘what if the service I work for does not share my philosophy?’ My response was, ‘then that service is not where you belong!’

Skills I required to lead in the Arena:

  • Being Brave- experiment, take risks, make decisions, be prepared to fail
  • Focus on my goals
  • Vision- share my vision with my community
  • Champions – find champions who shared my goals and visions
  • Listen- Silent (it’s ironic how the same letters make up these two words)
  • Values- accountability and respect (my values)
  • Empower your champions — Brene Brown defines leadership as, ‘Anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and who has the courage to develop that potential.’
  • Celebrate- small and big success along the way

Build systems to support your skills

  • Build a support system- find a mentor/coach
  • Network with other leaders outside your community
  • Gratitude: write notes of appreciation to your team, notice their good qualities and tell them you see what they do. It’s a game-changer.
  • Journal: Be Mindful, not Mind-full, a therapeutic act that declutters the mind and aids better sleep.



Brown, B. (2018). Dare to Lead: Brave Work Touch Conversations Whole Hearts. Daring Greatly and Rising Strong at Work. New York: Random House.


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