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2024 BLOG

Encountering Courage

One week ago, I found myself on a train to London, crossing an ocean below water. How strange this must appear to anyone living 200 years before our time. How irrelevant to the ones walking the planet 2 centuries into the future. Will it? Will there be anyone walking? What will the realities on planet earth look like? So many questions, and so many places where there is only space for rigid answers and rigid timeframes. But not in the environment I was approaching. 

Every year, the Windsor Leadership Dialogue invites a diverse group of leaders from all walks of life to be in conversation with each other - right there, amongst the ghosts of centuries of royal tradition, persevering military order and inspiring individuals such as William Shakespeare himself. Imagine a group of 21 people coming together at Windsor Castle, all with their own stories, trusting that the following 2 days would be full of rich encounters, following an invitation that resonated through personal relationships and the long-term legitimacy of St. George’s House.

This year’s edition of the dialogue called us into circle under the question of courageous leadership. What does it mean, how to foster courage, where in our lives is it needed the most?

From the first moments of feeling into our bodies, tuning into a moment of shared silence and exchanging personal stories about where we had encountered courage, it became very clear that this group and this space would open up conversations far beyond the normative.

Being human, we all know courage as a felt experience, a leap of faith, a surrendering to our own or a wider moral truth which then often turns into clarity around an actionable path.

From the idea of courage as a socio-cultural phenomenon to applied perspectives on the courage it takes to address themes such as death and dying on a family and societal level, and the appearance of courage in nature. One could almost see the space lighten up everytime people encountered each other, diving into the questions they generously offered into the middle. 

Throughout our conversations, what stood out to me was the important role of silence, and the courage it often takes to hold the apparent emptiness as we tone down the noise of the everyday. What showed up in these spaces was a renewed sense of possibility, a wider frame to perceive. If we compare our lives to the process of preparing a pot of soup on a stove, courage appears as the spark that sets the stove on fire and adds heat to the mix - making it possible to melt and mould current realities into new norms. And as soon as we find this spark, it might well hop over to others, encouraging them on their own journey. Courage is contagious and travels not only through our actions, but also through our stories.

Walking up and down the Long Walk, pondering upon courage in nature, questions around courage as a response to fear & degenerative social conditioning crystallised. The image of a breaking open, melting into flow. We explored the need for a trustworthy environment for us to be able to find the spark of courage, or be encouraged by one another. Courage thrives where trust is provided and is just as much a very intimate, personal experience as it is a socio-cultural phenomenon responding to current societal patterns and norms.

Following through our beautifully facilitated, unfolding dialogue, we all could feel how this little word ‘courage’ had opened to so many further meanings, melting into our collective body through a powerful combination of head, heart, body, and play. At the end of the two days, our individual ‘baskets’ were filled with rich personal learnings, a strengthened sense of courage and a spark of wisdom that emerged out of difference, held in a tight weave of deepened connections between this diverse group of human beings. 

One week ago, I found myself on a train to join a gathering of ‘strangers' at a ‘very important place', finding that it was people who cared and dared enough to follow an invitation of the heart. Maybe that is what made them feel less strange right from the beginning? And maybe what is important about the place is its history of writing history for centuries. I am wondering how our conversations are rippling through the walls of Windsor Castle as they shape the possibilities of a more courageous tomorrow.

Petals of courage

Do flowers need courage to take root in a rugged landscape?

Does a bud need courage to spring open when Maytime arrives?

Do mice feel the racing of their own hearts before leaving their safe homes

For the bread crumbs on the far-away kitchen floor?

Do you, and I, perceive all the immediate choices

Life throws at us with a twinkle, calling us to

Feel the fear

Break through

Melt open

Set free

Sophie Charrois received a bursary as a young leader to join the Windsor Leadership Dialogue, and has been engaged in practices and global conversations around participatory leadership for the past 10 years. If you are curious about Sophie’s experience of courage, feel invited to visit this post on her personal blog

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