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About The Book

by the Center for Courage & Renewal and Shelly Francis

Leadership demands courage. You have to make good decisions while balancing inevitable tensions and knowing when to take risks. You need to keep your values in sight, regardless of the pressures around you. At its core, leadership is a daily, ongoing practice, a journey toward becoming your best self and inviting others to do the same.

And that’s where The Courage Way comes in. It’s a guide to leadership that shows how to access and draw upon courage in all that you do. It has its roots in the work of Parker J. Palmer, who in fifty years of teaching, speaking, and writing, has explored the human spirit — what he has called “the inner landscape” — and its role in life and leadership.

Shelly Francis identifies key ingredients needed to cultivate courage, the most fundamental being trust—in ourselves and in each other. She describes how to build trust through the Center for Courage & Renewal’s Circle of Trust® approach, centered on 11 “touchstones,” poetic and practical operating guidelines for holding the meaningful conversations vital to trust building. Each chapter features true stories of how leaders have overcome challenges and strengthened their organizations through touchstones like: “Extend invitation, not demand”; “No fixing, saving, advising, or correcting”; and “When the going gets rough, turn to wonder.”

This graceful and inspiring book is a guide to courageous leadership and a journey of self-discovery. As Francis writes, “Courage is not only in you — it is you. In your moments of courage, that’s when you meet your true self.”

by the Center for Courage & Renewal and Shelly Francis

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What People Are Saying

For many years, the Center for Courage & Renewal has been preparing us for this post-truth era when courageous action is demanded from leaders who care about people and planet. I am deeply grateful for this book as a guide and support for moral leadership as we face the darkening future.

~ Margaret Wheatley, Author of Who Do We Choose To Be?

Shelly Francis has written a beautiful and important book. Of all the requisite virtues of conscious leaders, courage is one of the most essential — the courage to do what is needed to promote human flourishing and growth. This book is the finest treatment I know of this vital subject.

~ Raj Sisodia, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Conscious Capitalism Inc.

Our culture and our planet are in crisis. Not shying away from this truth requires courage. I’m relieved to find a book that holds us to a higher standard and offers guidance as we wonder: in these peculiar times, how can we find the courage to live the life that wants to be lived through us?

~ Frederic Laloux, Author of Reinventing Organizations

This is the book that won’t claim to change your life, which is exactly why you can trust that it probably will. What you will find in these pages is no less than the technology to tune into your true self — your real intuitions and outrage and intelligence — and a sense of how to show up in community with that revitalized understanding of your own power.

~ Courtney E. Martin, Author of The New Better Off

The Courage Way will nourish that part of you that cares deeply about the world. A soulful approach for helping you harness your inner strength to become the kind of leader the world needs now — in every dimension of your life.

~ Jono Fisher, Founder of

The Courage Way gives us a much-needed social technology for self-expression and authentic relationships. With intimate leadership stories, it shows how integrating purpose and cultivating community can be a powerful catalyst for change.

~ Aaron Hurst, Author of The Purpose Economy & Fast Company’s Purposeful CEO Series

What would you do with more courage? From that first provocative question to the last story of people learning to lead and live in deeper alignment with true self, The Courage Way is a surprising and counter-intuitive remedy for the heart-sore.

~ Jerry Colonna, Co-Founder & CEO of

The Courage Way forever expands the way we think about courage, bringing its many manifestations to life and proving that acts of courage, whether physical, moral, creative, or otherwise, have their seeds within each and every one of us. Read and re-energize!

~ Billy Shore, Founder & CEO of Share Our Strength, Author of The Cathedral Within and The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men

At a time when civil discourse reflects a lack of trust in leadership and when the integrity of our leaders seems in doubt, Shelly Francis offers us a path to renewal. Her insights into cultivating courage through daily practice provide a much-needed guide to authentic leadership aimed at prosperity and flourishing. Essential reading in today’s world.

~ Chris Laszlo, PhD, Co-Author (with Judy Sorum Brown) of Flourishing Enterprise

Leading people and businesses requires immense effort and dedication that can isolate you, exhaust you, and even pull you away from your vision and deep connection. Enter The Courage Way, which offers tools, stories, and ideas to help you cultivate your vision and your ability to lead with courage, kindness, humor, and dignity.

~ Karla McLaren, M.Ed and Author of The Language of Emotions & The Art of Empathy

The Courage Way offers stories and practices of how the hearts of leaders can stay connected with their moral compass and courage. It shows that what we create collectively arises from the wholeness and compassion we locate within.

—Donald M. Berwick, MD, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement

Everyone should read this gem of a book. The Courage Way is a powerful tonic for our challenging times. Keep it close at hand so you can savor its life-giving music again and again.

~ Dr. Gloria J. Burgess, Author of Dare to Wear Your Soul on the Outside & Flawless Leadership

The Courage Way by Shelly Francis is a wonderfully written book for all those who wish to lead their personal and professional lives in alignment with what truly matters. Happiness is unthinkable without courage, yet until now, little has been written about how to muster this great virtue. The book is a must-have resource — inspiring!

~ Andrea F. Polard, PsyD, Founder of Zen Psychology Therapy & author of A Unified Theory of Happiness

This is an important read for leaders at all levels. I am inspired by the promise and potential of leaders and organizations as forces for good, and this has never been more important in the world. The Courage Way shares time-tested tools, reflections, and guiding principles that every leader can learn and practice.

~ Richard J. Davidson, Founder of the Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin–Madison, & Co-Author (with Daniel Goleman) of Altered Traits

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Meet The Authors

Center For Courage & Renewal

The Center for Courage & Renewal is a nonprofit organization that works to create a more just, compassionate, and healthy world by nurturing personal and professional integrity and the courage to act on it. Founded in 1997 by author, activist, and educator Parker J. Palmer, the Center’s approach was initially created to renew and sustain educators, and today brings the Circle of Trust® approach to individuals, organizations, and communities across a range of professions. Through its network of nearly three hundred Courage & Renewal facilitators across the globe, the Center offers online resources and in-person retreats and programs, including facilitator-led retreats, workshops, team coaching, customized consulting, speaking presentations, and program series.

Shelly Francis

Shelly L. Francis has been the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since mid-2012. Before coming to the Center, Shelly directed trade marketing and publicity for multi-media publisher Sounds True, Inc. Her career has spanned international program management, web design, corporate communications, trade journals, and software manuals. The common thread throughout her career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets — technology, services, resources, ideas — while bringing people together to facilitate collective impact and good work.

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