The 4 Keys to Leading with Honesty and Courage

We all have the potential to inspire our teams, families, and communities. In this post, Brian shares how honesty and courage are important to authentic leadership. Through authentic leadership, we can positively impact those around us so that our leadership lasts long after we’re gone.

Who do you consider a point of light in your upbringing?

What about in your leadership journey?

Someone who has set an example you strive to follow and is a source of inspiration. We all have points of light.  

For Tyler Perry, it’s his mother and his faith. And he’s returned the favor through his authenticity in his films and storytelling, serving as a point of light for his audience. I’ll share one of my favorite speeches Perry gave on points of light near the end.

As leaders, we have the opportunity to be points of light for the people we lead. Through authentic leadership, we can positively impact those around us so that our leadership lasts long after we’re gone. 

In this series, we’ve talked about how an authentic leader aligns the team around a shared vision and builds relationships by developing trust and showing compassion.

They also exemplify honesty and courage in their decisions and the way they communicate. This last component — honesty and courage — is what I’d like to focus on today. 

We incorporate honesty and courage in our leadership in four ways: 

  1. We’re honest with ourselves by recognizing our intentions.
  2. We’re vulnerable and honest with our team when we don’t have the answer.
  3. We don’t shy away from difficult conversations.
  4. We lead with integrity. 

Let’s dive into each area.

We’re honest about our intentions.

We need to be honest with ourselves about our intentions and the decisions we make as leaders. Just as no one knows what’s going on inside my head and heart better than I do, no one knows what’s going on inside your head and your heart better than you

Why did you say what you said in yesterday’s meeting? 

Why did you write what you wrote in that email you’re about to send?

Why did you make that remark about your client? 

Be honest with yourself and recognize your intentions and what you communicate. If those intentions are pure, great! But if you intend to make yourself look better or make someone else look bad for your benefit, take a step back and find a better way to approach the situation.

Courage is not about being the biggest or strongest one in the room. It’s having the courage to be honest with yourself and where you are on your path to becoming an authentic leader.

We’re vulnerable when we don’t have the answer.

Likewise, having courage as an authentic leader means we’re able to be vulnerable. I don’t mean we need to show our emotional side during a company meeting, but if you need to shed a tear in response to a life challenge you’re going through, there’s no shame in it.

What I mean by being vulnerable is that it’s OK to say you don’t have all the answers. In fact, it shows strong, confident leadership.

Years back, one of my company’s programs was identified as a brand standard for a large hospitality organization. It was a huge opportunity, and our company grew because of it. It was a fun time! 

Three years later, there was a leadership change in that organization, and our program was downgraded from a brand standard to a recommendation.

We could lose up to 30% of our revenue because of that decision. We knew we were in trouble.

I decided to bring everyone in for a meeting, but I didn’t have a solution to announce. Instead, I told everyone, “We all know why we’re in this position. I wish I had the answer, but I don’t.” 

Everyone looked at me. Eyes wide. 

“What I do believe is the answer is in this room.” 

About 20 seconds later, someone suggested an idea. Then so did another person. After two hours, we had a plan. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it was a plan. 

I felt weak as a leader at that moment.

Everyone got up to leave, but one woman stayed behind. She said, “Thank you. I’ve never seen you be as strong a leader as you are today.” 

I asked why, and she said, “Because you allowed us to contribute to the solution.” 


Authentic leaders can share that we don’t have an answer and empower those around us. We can work together to find a solution. Vulnerability doesn’t make you weak — it makes your team stronger. 

We have difficult conversations. 

It takes courage to have difficult conversations. I’ve discussed throughout this series the importance of being genuinely compassionate toward the people we lead. We can do that and we can deliver results, but sometimes it requires difficult conversations. 

Here’s what holding people accountable with compassion may look like: “We’re not on track to achieve our goals, and your area of accountability is part of the reason. So we need to talk about this. But first, I want to make sure that you’re OK.” 

Some of us lean into conflict. Others avoid it. While I don’t particularly enjoy conflict, I’ve positioned my mind to see difficult conversations like these as acts of kindness

Why? If someone on my team is not performing, but I’m not having intentional conversations with them, I may reach a point where I have to terminate them. Those difficult conversations allow us to talk through issues so they can work toward improving. 

Think about it: Do you prefer your supervisor to be upfront, honest, and compassionate when communicating with you? Would you rather know where you stand with them on any given day? In my experience, the answer is usually “yes.” 

We lead with integrity.

The last part of leading with courage is about living with integrity. This is different than morality. Regardless of your belief system, integrity means that you do what you say you’re going to do. Here’s why that matters for leaders:

  • People watch how you act, even when you’re not actively “leading” them.
  • It’s easier for others to relate to you when you’re consistent and they know what to expect.
  • Your team feels confident that you’ll fulfill your commitments. They are empowered to do the same.

When we step into a leadership role for a department, a company, or a family, we become points of light.

Authentic leadership is who we are. It’s connecting our mind with our heart in the way we approach delivering the results that are expected of us in our organization. It comes down to sharing a vision and creating alignment, building genuine relationships with the people we lead, and having courage and honesty with ourselves and others. 

But if you think you’ve reached the point where you are a fully authentic leader, you probably have more to work on than you realize. Becoming an authentic leader isn’t a quest with a final destination. It’s a journey of listening, learning, and growth.

For more inspiration about being a point of light, listen to this speech by Tyler Perry:

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