Finding your courage
It takes courage not lack of fear to lead.
Seven things gutless leaders do:
- Create complexity that protects them from decision-making responsibility. Cowards lurk in the protective shadows of bureaucracy.
- Let fear rather than vision control decisions.
- Talk more than listen. Churchill wisely said, “… courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
- Dodge honesty with questions. Sometimes, “What do you think?” is avoidance.
- Cling to familiarity and reject the unknown. Raymond Lindquist said, “Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.”
- Pretend they have the answers. Yesterday, Traci Fenton of Worldblu reminded me some organizations and leaders still propagate the “omniscient leader myth”.
- Compromise their virtues and values. C.S. Lewis powerfully observed, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
Five things courageous leader do:
- Love deeply. Love crushes fear. Ambrose Redmoon explained, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Leaders that love courageously do what’s best for others and their organizations.
- Reflect on and live by their values authentically.
- Give generously.
- Extend honor lavishly.
- Face criticism humbly. Tough problems have more than one solution. Translation, someone won’t be happy. People on the other side of an issue may be right.
Finding your courage
For me, finding courage begins with facing fear. It includes asking, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Additionally, courage includes expressing my fears to trusted allies. Most importantly, courage is embracing a people-centered vision and aggressively pursuing it by always pressing one step beyond.
Can you add to my lists?
How can leaders find their courage?
If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy the story of G.J. Hart: A Different Kind of Courage
A very informative post. Besides things that courageous leader do, I would like to add some more things. They are information dissemination across all the level, interaction with all people and inspire others to achieve what they need. Courageous leader are more visible than gutless leaders. Gutless leader hide themselves and create space and fear so that people know less about them. They always live in fear of being exposed.
I agree that merely having virtue is not enough. It should be tested from time to time. It should reflect in action, decision and behavior.
I think, leaders can find their courage by being real. Authentic leaders are courageous and Inauthentic leaders are gutless. And gutless leader compromise with their virtue frequently. In fact, they do not have strong virtue.
Accepting criticism with humility is a powerful leadership gesture. Gutless leaders usually argue and defend their position. And courageous leader listen and accept responsibility. Courageous leader live on their terms and condition whereas gutless leaders live on others term and condition.
Wonderful seeing you. Thanks for adding to to the list of things that courageous leaders do. You listed sharing information first and I think that’s so important.
The last sentence you shared is powerful. It makes me think of Locus of Control, something I image your students learn at some point in their education.
Ajay is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/aja-gupta
Best post I have seen so far. This one hit home for me. The “gutless” leader is one I encounter all too often.
Thanks for your encouragement. I’m with you, I’ve often encounter gutless leaders. There have been times I’ve encountered him in the mirror.
Another great post, Dan! One thing I would integrate into the lists is trusting other people. Fearful leaders do not trust others. This leads to micro-managing, thinking people are out to sabotage them, not sharing information and thinking people are not working hard to achieve corporate goals.
Courageous leaders trust others. Coming from a place of trust, leaders will inquire, listen for understanding and collaborate with others. This leads to inspiration in others.
For me, trust is a foundational piece for all relationships. And, leadership is really built on the relationships created with other people as well as with yourself.
Wonderful! You added a core quality that I left off the list. I’m thankful you dropped in.
and inspire trust throughout the organization…
It never ceases to amaze me how all these principles of leadership apply not just to “those in charge”, but to all of us int he workplace or the home.
If we, regardless of role, adopt these ideas and integrate them into our daily work, our interactions with our co-workers, we can overcome the pettiness ad nonsense that plague every work environment.
A little does a lot over time. How often have you seen your coworkers take the actions of the gutless leader? Remember these 5 lessons in courage, stay cool, and see the difference you’ll make where you work.
Your comment touches me because I believe moms and dads would go further if they applied leadership principles in the home. During my call with Ken Blanchard he talked about his dad teaching him values.
In addition, organizations aren’t hurt because they have too many leaders.
Interesting you mentioned Ken Blanchard. Right now I am reading Lead with LUV Ken Blanchard and Colleen Barrett. It is a short read, like most of his books, and is really a dialogue between Ken and Colleen. Colleen also talked about how her mother teaching her values. So it does happen in the home, although maybe not as much as what is possible.
I do know it inspires me to be better in all facets of my life.
I will say ‘ditto’ to your observations Joe. Many if not all of the leadership traits apply across any organization and would enhance an organization by their increased presence. The G5 Leadership classes that Dan has mentioned, even though they are framed in Leadership, can apply across an organization…and certainly on the homefront too.
Not sure how best to make the point but a root cause of ethical issues seems to be greed … a focus on “me”! In my mind that one thing undermines so much of what is right with a capitalist system.
Are those greedy leaders gutless? Are they taking the “easy route” to meet numbers and get paid more? If so then perhaps we could add that courageous leaders develop ethical visions and missions that guide their actions … without giving in to the temptations of the quick dollar.
My 2 cents.
Very creative ending… quick dollar — my 2 cents. You’re hitting an important and challenging idea. When a desire to add value and make a profit shifts to taking advantage of others we have serious problem.
In addition, tensions between long-term and short-term decisions can be very tough. Sacrificing immediate return for long-term gain may include ethical choices.
Thanks for your comment,
DAN!!!!! SPOT ON! (can you guess I am in total agreement?) LOL
Courage is grace under pressure…
An ultimate decision point: What do I choose to stand for?
Love adding the term grace to courage. Thanks
Great stuff from everyone. Just one quick practical note: You can position yourself for courage to be easier. Simply put, if you manage your life so that you can’t afford to risk your job, you will be inclined to compromise. If you manage your life so you have options, financial and otherwise, you reduce the pressure on yourself to compromise your values.
Agreed. Positioning for protection is not an effective leadership position.
I’m thankful you consistently add value.
I believe it’s time for you to write a book. Goodness your insights are so spot on, including this post. We need more courageous leaders. We need to hear about more courageous leaders. We need leaders to be more courageous. Great distinctions, my friend.
Thanks for the encouragement. You are very kind.
Best to you out in sunny Cali.
I heard a recent discussion in which someone said how refreshing it was to hear the administrator of the FAA say, “it is unacceptable for one of our controllers to be asleep on the job” in light of several incidents. The Air Traffic Control Director has now resigned. While I don’t know the specifics of the resignation and the relationship between the administrator and this employee, I believe the administrator was facing criticism humbly, acknowledging that the situation was wrong in every way.
You always leave us wonderful illustration and stories …thank you so much.
To which i add my wonderment at how many times the supervisor had turned a blind eye to tired employees? where is their courage?
Croadie bringing the blunt force direction to the example, ouch. It does appear the Director owned the situation, have to wonder how much all of the other layers of management owned up to it as well.
Hi Dan as usual great post and today no dissertation from me. Just a moment to quote Joe Tye who tells us “Fear is a reaction, Courage is a decision.” If you dissect that comment and put it in perspective with your work place, your home, your relationships it all comes down to “Your Decision” and “Attitude” when confronted by obstacles. The limbic system is alive and well in all of us but it needs to be kept at bay for the truly frightful moments and we need to let the right brain with data from the left help us with, as very nicely put above the, “grace of courage.” 🙂 Cheers, Al
First, have a great weekend!
Thank you for the Joe Tye quote. I wish I had thought of it for the actual post. However, you have me covered!
Honored by your consistent generosity,
Al is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. You can read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/al-diaz
nice to have everyone on the same page today 🙂
I can add one very simple thing – its part Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, part Croadism – Take your self (ego) out of the situation.
Doing that only leaves you with one logical response – doing what is right, values driven and courageous.
I added my name to the list of the hundreds of thousands hoping to do the New York City Marathon today – does that count?
Love your work. Richard
Just read Al’s comment properly – we are probably saying the same thing. you’re the man Al!
Hi Croadie, first of all thanks for the kind word. Since you mentioned ego above it brought to mind this priceless quote that I don’t remember who said it BUT I AM SURE Doc will: “don’t let your ego write a check that your talent can’t cash.”
cheers and have a great weekend. Al
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
With that question in mind, do true leaders need to foster a sense of urgency of vision/mission continuously?
Certainly they want to attend to the pace of change coupled with an underlying value of urgency. If we are not doing our best now, why not?
If we think we are doing our best now, how do we know? How do others know?
Coupling that sense of urgency with vision/mission, there could also be a sense of urgency around creating a high value legacy. If you deeply believe in what you are doing, are you bringing along the next generation that will lead? If you are not now, when? Your ‘time at the top’ clock is ticking faster than you are aware.
And this got far too serious, so to quote Mitch Hedberg… “I had a stick of CareFree gum, but it didn’t work. I felt pretty good while I was blowing that bubble, but as soon as the gum lost its flavor, I was back to pondering my mortality.”
Dan, top-notch post, as usual.
Another thing gutless leaders do is point away when anything goes wrong. Courageous leaders point to themselves first.
Gutless leaders look for scapegoats after every problem.
Courageous leaders look for lessons, for themselves and the team.
Love the quote: “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
Keep up the great work!
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Wow, what an encouraging post! My take away: “Most importantly, courage is embracing a people-centered vision and aggressively pursuing it by always pressing one step beyond.”
Echoing your reference to Mr. Redmoon’s quote, I’ve also heard it put this way: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the knowledge that something more important is at stake”. The more I thought about that, the more I realized the depth of the truth of that statement. The realization of this truth has become the impetus in my life to encourage those around me; i.e. it’s not about me, & it’s not necessarily about any vision I have to accomplish anything. I’ve learned that when I take the time to look beyond the vision as a thing in and of itself and consider why the vision exists to begin with, that’s when I see the people, those who will be impacted by the end results. In my opinion, that’s when goal setting becomes more defined. You identify those people, then you know how to set your goals. Then I see the people I’m asking to engage with me in pursuit of a vision. That’s when goal setting becomes more efficient. You know exactly who can do what, and each is placed where we can all offer our strengths. In my opinion, what’s at stake is the possible failure of reaching the desired end results, because if that happens, then the first group of people will never have the blessings and benefits they were meant to have, and the second group of people will be left feeling unfulfilled and unappreciated; therefore, human growth and progress are seriously impeded, and the vision takes on an added dimension of becoming a salvage, or rescue, mission before any forward movement can be taken in the original direction.
Thanks again for sharing your wisdom.
Great leadership tips that one can’t get anywhere else!
Great post. I believe courage is essential to leading from where one stands.
Something else gutless leaders fear is competition from others. Rather, the strengths of others can help to buoy a leader should the leader be humble enough to enable others to succeed.
I wrote a fun post related to this topic – http://heatherbauer.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/hero-gumption/
Skip to the second (most relevant) video 🙂
Great video. thanks