How to Lead Courageously

As a leader, courage is frequently cited as a necessary trait. 

Understanding exactly what it is can help you determine whether you or other leaders within your organization, are currently leading courageously!

 “The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear“… is the definition of courage according to Dictionary.com.

In business, leaders are often called upon to take risks.  This takes courage.  Not only the quality of being able to face difficulty, danger, pain , etc., without fear, but also the quality of being willing to put oneself in the face of difficulty, danger or pain; to risk loss for potential gain.

Even one step beyond that is the courage is to have, or put,  a system in place in your organization that allows others to take risks without fear of being placed at the head of the table in a follow-up “Blame Game” if the risk taken does not have the projected outcome.

Albert Einstein says “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”   In many organizations, particularly long-established and well-rooted organizations,  there are many more “nay-sayers” than “Hey, let’s go do it” sayers.  The thought of failure of any kind…with its attendant punishment… is so well stamped into the organizational culture that even the potential to take moderate risks are viewed with either suspicion or outright prohibition.  Viewing the world through a different prism is so unacceptable, not only are new ideas or concepts not tried…they aren’t discussed. 

Discipline and predictability are important to organizational structure.  Yet adhering strictly to corporate “norms” ultimately results in outmoded behaviors that can destroy innovation and prevent forward movement. 

 To step outside this mold means the leader or leaders must constantly examine the company “norms” and “taboos”.  They must be willing to courageously encounter the “violent opposition from mediocre minds” …promote change, and encourage innovation,  if the company is to grow. 

“Grow or Die” must be part of your vision if you choose to be a courageous leader.

Venturing into new territory, going places where the outcome is unknown takes courage…and support.  As a courageous leader, you can let…and encourage…those who work for you to take risks greater than they could, or would be willing to take without your support. 

Let’s say, for example, one of your team has just presented you with a great idea for a new product launch.  It fits into the broad scope of what your company does, but targets a different niche than where you’ve been for the last 5 years. She’s got the cost/benefit analysis set up, and the start-up costs are high, but pay-back , if the project is successful, is quick, and it could not only provide a new market segment, but also increase sales opportunity within your current market segment.  She’s detailed the competition and the challenges.  Now…it’s up to you to make the decision to move forward, or say “No.”

If your organization is conservative and resistant, why would you want to do this? 

Maybe….because…you want to know what it feels like to…lead courageously!

If it succeeds anywhere close to projections,  the company’s market share will increase, and the bottom line will be fattened.  Both you and the team member who brought the idea and opportunity forward will undoubtedly get significant recognition and promotion potential.

There are many leaders, however, who are afraid to take risks like this, and will play it safe.  Fear of being at the head of the table in the “Blame Game” simply feels too risky.  Even top organizational leaders fail to take, or promote, even moderate  risks that could have significant positive bottom line impact… for fear of criticism from stockholders.

So…if courage really is such an important trait for a leader…what are you doing today?  What are you doing to promote risk-taking in your organization?  At the very least, what are you doing to encounter the violent opposition of  mediocre minds when your employees bring you new, worthwhile ideas.  Ideas that if fostered, promoted and successful could “create electricity” and if unsuccessful would not be failure, but simply be “one more way not to create electricity.”

And I’m not talking about the unbridled greed of ceratin leadership that is currently trompling our economy.  That wasn’t courageous.  In fact, just the opposite.  Our current economic debacle can be traced directly to lack of courage…particularly noticable  the silence of designated leaders who saw what was happening, knew it was wrong, and chose not to lead courageously.  They chose the path of “Say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” 

What about you? Are you a courageous leader?  You can be, you know.

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