Courage requires taking action in the face of risks. It involves making yourself vulnerable, defending your ideas through words and actions, swimming against the tide at times, and even putting your personal interests at stake.
“It’s being able to put yourself in uncomfortable circumstances and expose yourself to risk for the greater good.” – Titouan Rio, President of Young Ambassadors for the Climate, which aims to make the voices of young citizens heard, even in high-level international climate negotiations.
If the first step is as dizzying and difficult to take as it is liberating, the steps that follow require another important quality: selflessness.
“Courage isn’t just a ‘one shot,’ it’s also perseverance.” – Emery Jacquillat
“It’s very substantive work, convincing stakeholders.” – Carine Kraus
“If there are obstacles, you either have to go through them, or you have to go around them. The path to sustainability is not a straight line. But in courage, there is no room for giving up. There is room for failure, but not for giving up.” – Nicolas Hieronimus, CEO of L’Oréal Group, which launched the L’Oréal for the Future initiative in 2022 to align the company’s activities with planetary boundaries.
And this is why knowing the truth is important: we are prepared to face the difficulties precisely because we are making the decision with complete lucidity.
It is this work that allows you to stay on track, to anticipate the hard work that will be required, and the possible disappointments, so that you don’t crack at pivotal moments.
“You have to overcome the obstacles by being aware of the difficulties and not giving up on the magnitude of the task. You know it’s going to be difficult but you’re ready to go.” – Baptiste Eisele, member of the Ecological Awakening collective.
The most fragile moment where motivation can waver is this period after the adrenaline rush — the exhilaration you get from leaping into the void. Then comes the moment where everything has to be put into place and there are not yet any concrete results to keep you moving forward.
This is when stakeholders disengage, when detractors flourish. And it’s this specific moment that is the most difficult, because it is when the leader is the most alone.
“For a while you’re down and you’re like, ‘Wow, where am I taking the company?’ And when the times get tough, the leader is on their own.” – Emery Jacquillat
Facing these difficulties requires channeling your efforts and energy into the most constructive actions.
→ A first piece of advice to weather the storm: know how to surround yourself with the right people to counter loneliness. “Go find people in the company who really want to get involved,” as Philippe Blondiaux recommends. Or, according to Brune Poirson, Chief Sustainability Officer at Accor, “Surround yourself with peers whom managers admire and respect,” with whom they can drop their mask and confide their difficulties and doubts.
→ A second piece of advice: do not waver. Stay firmly rooted in your foundation.
“Courage is advocacy in action. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything, so choose the areas that are important to you and go for it.” – Barry Parkin, Chief Procurement & Sustainability Officer of Mars.
This requires having a solid personal compass and well-established convictions so you don’t deviate from the course. This is the whole point of the preliminary exercise of establishing a vision.
“Courage is the ability to remain aligned with one’s convictions despite popular opinion, sometimes even against popular opinion. It’s staying true no matter what.” – Pascal Demurger, Managing Director of MAIF.
One must persevere until the first successes begin to emerge, bringing with them the collective pride and renewed commitment of stakeholders.
“Then the alchemy starts to gradually set in and ends up surpassing you. That’s when it gets good.” – Emery Jacquillat
“The question of the collective is essential: a leader must rely on the energy around them.” – Philippe Zaouati, CEO of Mirova.
The bright spots appear on the horizon when the project is no longer under the sole ownership of the leaders — it becomes appropriated by the entire collective.