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Recognise how to lead valiantly

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Knowing when to take a thoughtful pause is essential to effective leadership

There are four steps of “leadership valour” and these make up a cycle that is available to leaders in nearly all situations.

The cycle starts when you choose self-awareness rather than a response that is automatic. The first step is to initiate, which invites you to step back to pause and consider rather than react. Just taking this first step can be difficult, particularly when circumstances are complex and decisions must be made quickly.

As a leader, you always have a choice. No matter what pressures you are experiencing, unless they are true emergencies, you can initiate and reflect.

The second step is to illuminate. This invites you to update your thinking about who you are, what you want, and what can get in the way of achieving it. It does not have to be a lengthy and time-consuming exploration. It can take just a few seconds to remember what is important to you or to pull yourself away from ill-advised action.

The third step is to curate. Curating simply means you are aware of the many facets of who you are as a leader. When you embrace that you are the curator of your own leadership, you are consciously entrusting yourself with envisioning, implementing, and then adjusting your actions going forward.

As with step 1: initiate, you have a choice. You actively select the leadership qualities and skills that are most important to you now. Choose to create your plan, and then how to implement and calibrate your approach.

Preparation is important but no matter how exceptional our plans, we are rarely able to implement them exactly as we imagined. That is why curate includes not only making and implementing plans, but also calibrating those plans and our actions as needed.

As you move into executing your plans, you will see the importance of the different perspectives that you may develop and that others may offer. It is not that new perspectives are “right” and your original plan was “wrong”; it is that different inputs may inform your original choices.

The fourth step is to integrate, which recognises the value of internalising what you have learnt. Integrate is about remembering the insights and wisdom you gained from leading valiantly as you did the work of the previous three steps. Assimilate your learning so you can incorporate what you have learnt and make it sustainable.

● This article is based on Catherine Robson-Walker’s new book Leading Valiantly in Healthcare


Catherine Robinson-Walker is a renowned and dynamic executive coach and author who has over 25 years’ experience in executive coaching and development, and has worked extensively coaching leaders in healthcare in the US. Her website is

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