The Courage to Let Go

“Courage is being radical.”

Isabelle Huault

“It is easy to be courageous for an hour or for a week. But courage requires consistency. Everyday, every time. How can we make every decision a courageous decision? We need to stop doing the wrong things; we need to stop investing in products and activities that are not regenerative. Because it is the right thing to do, not because it is the social norm.” – Marcello Palazzi, co-founder and ambassador of B Lab

Being able to rely on a personal compass is essential for staying the course, but it’s also a decision-making tool that indicates which projects to prioritize and which ones to let go of.

That’s not to say one should give up on commitments. But letting go of bad practices or ones that no longer align with the vision, which can be harder to give up than one thinks since they are often deeply ingrained in organizations.

If you hear, “That’s how we’ve always done it,” then you know the situation calls for bold solutions that require you to abandon old ways.

“Being brave is knowing how to give up what’s easy to save what’s essential, and that requires having your feet firmly planted on the ground.”

Dominique Bourg

→ And for that, there’s nothing more powerful than staying true — staying true to your convictions, to start.

“Being anchored in your convictions and aligning your actions with them is hard! That’s true as an individual, and it’s true as a leader.” – Dénis Machuel, who launched a zero waste initiative.

Courage is looking at who you are, even and especially if you are different from others. Do not dress in disguise, but act in line with our values and character.” – Arthur Auboeuf.

→ Then there’s staying true to the commitments that bind us to the company.
It’s important to remember that governance is “the art of guiding the company in the long term.”(1) Therefore, being a leader requires ensuring the sustainability of an organization in its ecosystem.

“At the head of a company, courage is the ability to bet on the long term. It would be trivial to make a decision in the short term when we know it will have negative effects.”

Pascal Demurger

And to tackle the long term, there is no room for quick-fix, thrown-together solutions. Again, being courageous often isn’t easy, and designing and implementing effective solutions is challenging.

“Courage is being radical. Not in the revolutionary sense of the term, but rather not being in an ineffective and misleading in-between. Compromise with stakeholders is essential, but the leader must be able to make choices and own them.” – Isabelle Huault, Chairman of the Executive Board and General Manager of EM Lyon Business School.

Radical, adj.: of, relating to, or proceeding from a root. To be radical is to go back to the heart of the problem.


Courage sometimes requires going as far as suffering the humiliation of admitting you’re wrong. When you feel you are no longer the right person to convince stakeholders and get them on board. When you feel you are no longer able to make an effective and positive impact. It’s this level of self-awareness and “self-control that reveal modesty and allow one to act from a sense of duty,” even when that means stepping down.

“A leader must be willing to resign if social and environmental objectives are not achieved. That, too, is courage, knowing how to hold yourself accountable.” – Brune Poirson, Chief Sustainability Officer at Accor.

Perhaps even to allow a more conscious and empowered succession to emerge:
“We have to trust the next generations much earlier than we did with my generation, to put young people in charge of these subjects.” – Barthelemy Guislain

« There is a new generation of courageous leaders who put the well-being of their companies, of society, and of the planet ahead of their ego and their own self-interest. » says Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever. Therefore, leaders need the courage to let go and share leadership with this new generation in order to make the changes that are needed.  

Because, as Georges Bernanos said, it is the fever of youth that keeps the rest of the world at a normal temperature.

Generation Glasgow is a collective of business leaders who are answering the urgent call to shape an economy that operates within planetary boundaries, where people and planet thrive. The aim to promote courage as the necessary spark to systemic change, open up an honest dialogue about the root causes of the challenges changemakers face in scaling transformation, and harness the power of a collective approach to drive progress.

Generation Glasgow sets itself apart from existing communities, think tanks and networks by providing an informal, collaborative space for C-level executives, board members and investors to identify what prevents them from effectively accelerating business transformation. It’s a task force that brings together business leaders, academics and activists to unlock levers of success and support each other in their courageous efforts to shift their businesses and transform the economy.

The more of us there are around the table, the richer the discussions and the better equipped we’ll be to strategically tackle the challenges that hinder effective action. To find out more and join our community, get in touch!

(1) Pierre-Yves Gomez


Isabelle Grosmaître
Founder of Goodness & Co

Heath McKay
Director of Marketing, Quantis

Rose Ollivier
Research and Editorial Manager, The Boson Project

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