Courage is feeling fear and doing it anyway

“I would not have done anything in my life if I had waited until I was confident I could do it. I just choose courage because there are great things that need doing in the world. I start with courage - not confidence - and I find the confidence through doing.”

Halla Tómasdóttir, successful entrepreneur and former Icelandic Presidential candidate, became CEO of The B Team last year. Since then she has been working with our group of global leaders to mobilise the private sector on everything from climate change to human rights, good governance to gender balance.


We were fortunate for Halla to join us at a recent Virgin Unite gathering. As well as sharing her story, she made some fascinating points about imposter syndrome, the internalised fear that you don’t belong, aren’t good enough and will be exposed as a fraud. Halla has suffered from this, especially when she ran for the Presidency. “Who am I to run for president?” she asked herself.


But Halla has learned to harness those fears as a positive. “I found a better question: ‘who am I not to serve?’ If you can, you have to dare to lead. I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I turned away, so I did it with courage but not confidence.

“We are not going to do enough that needs doing if we wait until we are confident,” she said. “We are better served by healthy self-doubt. We all have it and it’s okay, if we embrace our voice and our values and don’t let self-doubt overwhelm us.”


I have certainly felt like this myself as I have entered new industries and tried new things over the years. What did I know about running a magazine when I was a teenager? Could I really manage a global record label? What on Earth was a hippie like me doing starting an airline? Was I crazy trying to fly a balloon around the world, or build a business to go to space? But I’ve always believed in challenging myself, and think we all do our best work when we take chances and stretch ourselves.


This is the case in the Virgin Group, ever since our Virgin Records days, when I would promote the second in command in each new label division to run a new division. Promoting people into positions of responsibility that challenge them may mean they fall flat on their face – but at least they will be moving forward. In my experience, when you trust somebody and give them a chance, they will grow and thrive.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t scary. But that fear isn’t an excuse for avoiding it. Halla had a beautiful phrase to describe this: “Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is feeling fear and doing it anyway.”

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Þessi ótrúlegi maður stofnaði The B Team fyrir 6 árum síðan til að storka viðteknum venjum í viðskiptum. Flestir þekkja Richard Branson sem stofnanda Virgin Group, þar sem hann hefur náð ótrúlegum árangri. Hjá fyrirtækinu starfa um 80,000 manns, en hann lítur á hvert þeirra sem meðlim í fjölskyldunni. Margir hafa vafalaust líka heyrt og lesið sögur um öll hans brjáluðu uppátæki, sem sannarlega eru mörg og mis skynsamleg. Síðustu daga kynntist ég því vel að þó að hann sé mikill frumkvöðull og afreksmaður í íþróttum, þá er hann fyrst og fremst fjölskyldumaður og mikill mannvinur sem lætur sig varða velferð samfélagsins og móður náttúru. Það eru forréttindi að vera í félagsskap hans, fjölskyldu og starfsmanna og taka þátt í djúpum umræðum um hvernig sameiginlega við getum skapað sátt um bjarta framtíð næstu kynslóða. Þessir tímar kalla á hugrakka forystu á öllum sviðum okkar samfélags. Most of you know Richard Branson, the co-founder of The B Team as the successful founder of the Virgin Group. You may also have seen stories about his sometimes crazy adventures in life. I am inspired by his work and zest for life, but what impresses me most is his commitment and love for his family as well as his Virgin family of employees and partners. I feel very lucky to work with him and have just enjoyed days of deep conversations about the courage and compassion we must embrace to lead this world onto a path that allows us to leave it as we should for the next generation. Its time to lead with a moral compass.

A post shared by Halla Tómasdóttir (@hallatomas) on

Halla had less experience, less money, less media exposure, but ended up neck and neck with the frontrunner for the Presidency. She eventually finished as runner-up – luckily for all of us at The B Team!

Head over to The B Team to find out more about our work creating a better way of doing business, for the wellbeing of people and the planet.


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