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Become the Leader You Want to Be – Lead from a Place of Courage

The Fearless Leader Canvas is a visual tool to help you assess and design the journey to become the leader you want to be.

By Gustavo Razzetti

August 4, 2021

How to facilitate the Fearless Leader Canvas and become the leader you want to be

You can’t separate leadership from the person. The way you live is the way you lead. Fearless leaders make tough calls, not because of their titles or wits, but because they believe in their cause – they are wired to do the right thing.

Fear is a pervasive emotion. While its primary purpose is to alert us to potential dangers, in most cases, it paralyzes us from acting. Fearless leaders confront their fears – they pay attention to the threats but don’t let fear stop them.

The Fearless Leader Canvas is a visual tool to help you design the leader you want to become and lead from a place of courage.

The canvas is easy to use, but becoming a fearless leader is not. Get ready to do some hard, inner work. You must first learn to lead yourself before you can lead others and lead lasting change.

The Fearless Leader Canvas – Introduction

Fearlessness is not the absence of fear; it's doing what's right despite the risks involved. Fearless leaders confront their fears, do a clear assessment of the challenge, and take action.

The word ‘courage’ comes from Latin cor, meaning heart. Fearless leaders do what’s close to their hearts – they take risks to achieve the things that matter. Sometimes it’s about making decisions ‘under fire,’ other times about speaking the truth or simply acknowledging that they don’t know something and ask for help.

The Fearless Leader Canvas is a visual tool to help you design your leadership journey. Note that I didn’t say define your leadership style. Although that’s an important first step (we have a tool for that, too), becoming the leader you want is a lifetime journey – you never stop working on it.

I designed the Fearless Leader Canvas to help professionals become more intentional and focused on the areas they need to work on. There’s no right or wrong path – you’ll discover the one that works best for you as you make progress along the journey.

The canvas is composed of twelve building blocks divided into three key sections:

- The Compass

- The Mountain

- The Cloud

The Fearless Leader Canvas by Gustavo Razzetti - Fearless Culture

The Compass section is about your long-term vision: What drives you in life and who you are/ want to become. This area includes four building blocks: Purpose, Values, Priorities, and Relationships. The compass is a metaphor for the direction you choose – it’s your true north.

The Mountain section represents your journey as a leader: Each challenge is unique and requires different skills. This area includes four building blocks: Energy, Learning Zone, Bright Spots, and Superpower & Kryptonite. The mountain is a metaphor for the challenges you must conquer – choose the right ones.

The Cloud section represents stormy weather: Leaders get blinded by lack of clarity.  This area includes the last four blocks: Stress, Comfort Zone, Blind Spots, and Assumptions About People. The cloud is a metaphor for the changing beliefs and unknowns that get in our way – they cloud your judgment.

It’s important to understand that leadership is a system – the three areas are intertwined.

For facilitation purposes, I recommend working on the Compass section first. It represents the foundation of your leadership style and will affect the other areas. Most importantly, your true north is a long-term decision of how you want to be – it shouldn’t change too often.

Second, tackle the Cloud. This is the most challenging section to complete. It requires uncovering what you don't know, getting feedback from other people, and lots of iterations. Unlike the Compass section, you need to work on taming your Cloud on an ongoing basis.

Lastly, work on the Mountain section. Some areas are more personal and independent. Others will require feedback as well as building off the content you captured in the different blocks on the Cloud. For example, you want to work on turning blind spots into bright spots or addressing limiting beliefs to move from the comfort zone to the learning zone.

The Fearless Leader Canvas: Understanding Each Block

Start working on the Compass section.

1. Purpose

What’s your north star? What drives you?

Having a personal purpose adds meaning to our lives. It drives us into action, wanting to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Your purpose is about the impact you create on others and the community.

Your purpose is your “why;” it’s an invitation to be part of a bigger, more meaningful vision. Becoming a fearless leader is about lifting others – it’s a selfless act. Winston Churchill said it best, "We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

If you don’t have a defined purpose, use the following exercise to craft your purpose.

Your company or team should have clear purposes, too. Find the connection. How does your personal purpose bring the organizational purpose to life? And the other way around, too.

2. Values

What foundational beliefs define the person you want to be?

Your values are not the "things that we care about," as many people think. What you care about changes every day (every minute, even) – that’s why it’s hard to agree on common values. The things you value come and go, but your values can guide you throughout life, no matter the situation.

Your values are the attributes of the person you want to be. What principles and feelings enable you to make tough life decisions? Which tradeoffs are you willing to make to stay true to your values?

The beliefs on which you base your choices – especially tough ones – are your values.

12 of the most common values participants have shared in our values workshops

Values are your guide to life—if you know what they are. You feel better when you make decisions that are aligned with your values, even if the outcome is not what you expected.

Here’s an exercise to define your personal values.

3. Priorities

Select your top three priorities using even/ over statements.

Establishing clear priorities will help you make better decisions and, most importantly, be consistent as a leader. Even over statements speed up decision-making, promoting transparency and accountability. They also generate positive energy.

Real priorities require choosing one good thing even over another good thing. It's easy to choose to grow over choosing not to grow. However, the real challenge happens when you have to sacrifice one thing because you prioritize another.

Use even/ over statements to clarify what you are willing to sacrifice in order to focus on what really matters. This format is not neither both or nor either-or.

Examples of even/ over statements:

Outcome even over following the plan

Short commute even over having a comfortable office

Candid feedback even over harmony

List your values, beliefs, purpose, goals, behaviors, etc. What are the dilemmas you face? Which forces compete with which? Capture the tradeoff in an even over statement. Rank them from most important to least important – select the top three.

More examples:

Progress even over perfection

Trust even over control

Active listening even over active speaking

4. Relationships

Who are the key people that will help you succeed?

Your success depends on the strength of your relationships.

Identify the key people that are fundamental for your success. Consider those who support you, the people that are willing to challenge you and tell you what others won't, those who can take care of things you can't, individuals that can provide better expertise or perspectives, or those who have the influence you need but don't have.

Map your relationships and assess their strength. Define a course of action to continue strengthening the relationships that matter.

Now move to the Cloud section.

5. Stress

What causes you worry?

The stress and pressure that leaders operate under often result in burnout and a loss of focus, leading to failure to perform properly. Not only a stressed leader is bad for business, but it will also affect their teams.

List all the things that make you anxious or worried. What behaviors push your buttons? Include recurrent topics or things that affect you now and then. List both small things and more in-depth ones.

What’s the theme? Is there any particular type of things that makes you worry more? Which things are under your control and which aren’t?

6. Comfort Zone

What fears and perceived limitations get in your way?

Learning and growth happen beyond your comfort zone. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable – the problem is when you don’t want to venture beyond the usual behaviors.

Your comfort zone is unique to you. What might feel risky for one person, may not for you – and the other way around.

Leaving your comfort zone doesn't mean doing crazy things but being willing to experiment with new mindsets and behaviors. From making minor changes to your routines to trying new experiences – in order to learn you must let go of control and familiarity. The learning zone exists in between the comfort and danger zones, as shown in the image below.

Identify the fears and beliefs that limit your ability to explore or try new things. What are the areas of your life in which you tend to stick to routines or familiarity the most? Why?

7. Blind Spots

What are the things you don’t know you don’t know?

Your blind spots are things that others see about you, but you don’t.

Conquering your blind spots requires increasing self-awareness. You can work on your own, but you’ll need external input, too. Just like you need mirrors and cameras when driving a car, external feedback can help you avoid accidents.  

This area is one of the most challenging, especially for senior executives. Almost 90% believe they are self-aware, but only 5% are, according to research by Tasha Eurich.  

8. Assumptions about People

What do you think motivates your colleagues?

Every leader makes assumptions about other people – some are good; most harm company culture.

Some of the negative assumptions include that people can’t make decisions on their own, are human resources to be maximized, are selfish and don’t like collaborating, and are not mature enough to handle tough issues.

Reflect on your assumptions as a leader. How do you see your colleagues or subordinates? Be honest. No one is judging you when you’re completing the Fearless Leader Canvas. Brutal honesty is a must during this assessment – you can only improve what you first acknowledge.

Lastly, complete the Mountain section.

9. Energy

What keeps you going?

We all find motivation and inspiration in different places. It could be a time of the day, an activity, a person, or a well-designed ritual.

Some people are goal-driven, others care about helping others. Many, like me, like to feel challenged and many others are routine-driven. Capture what gives you energy (or recharges it) to keep you going.

10. Learning Zone

How do you challenge yourself to learn and grow?

I explained the differences between the learning zone and comfort zone. Here you have to work on defining the new mindsets and behaviors you're willing to experiment with. Challenging yourself is important, but it's not the end.

You want to explore new areas that are aligned with your purpose and will help you learn in the direction you want to move as a leader – not to please others. Being a fearless leader is not about taking risk to make a point, but to confront and overcome the fears that get in your way to achieve what you want.

Fearless leaders don’t need to prove themselves to others.

11. Bright Spots

What opportunities for personal growth have you uncovered?

In the Cloud section, you started to ask other people for feedback to start uncovering your blind spots. In this building block, work on how you’ll start turning them into bright spots.

For example, let's say that people say you talk too much or don't listen to others. What's the opportunity? It's not about to stop doing something, but about turning that into fuel for growth. What can you improve as a leader by practicing active listening, for example?

12. Superpower & Kryptonite

What makes you powerless? What makes you powerful?

A superpower is your special force or contribution – something that gets the best out of you. In my case, one of my superpowers is the ability to connect the dots in a simple way. Where others see many unrelated things, I find a common thread and make sense of it.

Your kryptonite sucks your energy and passion, bringing out the worst of you. In my case, my kryptonite is frustration.

Overplaying your superpower can be dangerous. On the other hand, you can turn your kryptonite to your favor. I learned to listen to my frustration and reflect on my own behavior, becoming more tolerant with others.

Read this article to identify your superpower and kryptonite.

Become a Fearless Leader: Review the Canvas – And Iterate

Becoming the leader you want to be requires more than completing the canvas once. It's a never-ending exercise. And, of course, the canvas is just a framework. It doesn't matter what you capture in sticky notes if you don't act on it.

Successful change efforts suggest starting with new actions, not just with articulating the desired state. Rather than merely stating the type of leader you want to become, define the specific behaviors that will take you there.

These new actions, when consistent with your personal vision, will generate tangible results. Over time, these new behaviors will turn into lasting habits — the way you lead.

When you complete the activity, it’s vital not to confuse the leader you want to be with the one you are today.

Review the completed canvas to see what makes sense or not – look for surprises, contradictions, and confirmations. If done well, this exercise will help you unveil both things you were familiar with, as well as new aspects about you as a leader.

Use the following questions to help you assess the initial version:

• What do you stand for? Is it simple and clear?

• Is your personal purpose ambitious, yet attainable?

• Are your values and purpose serving others or self-serving?

• Does your leadership feel unique? Is it authentic?

• Do your behaviors align with the type of leader you want to become?

• What’s holding you back? What’s getting in the way?

Master the Fearless Leader Canvas

Most canvases are simple to use. However, mastering the Fearless Leader Canvas requires training, practice, and coaching. Filling the building blocks is easy; designing a unique leadership approach, that’s a different animal.

If you want support to become the leader you want, join our Fearless Leader Program. Not only will you master the canvas, but also access many other methods and tools to help you become a fearless leader. This online program includes multiple activities, live classes, individual coaching, and peer-to-peer learning. Learn more about the Fearless Leader program.

Copyright & attribution

The Fearless Leadership Canvas was created by Gustavo Razzetti (Copyright © 2021 by Gustavo Razzetti and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Attribution — You must give appropriate credit (author name, link to the original canvas, and provide a link to the license) and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

Artwork by Fausto Razzetti

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