4 Principles of Responsible Boldness

Timid action insults your future.

But in some organizations, boldness is perilous.

5 signs it’s perilous to be bold:

  1. Upper management believes the status quo is daring.
  2. Everyone colors within the lines.
  3. Responsible failure is punished.
  4. Leaders ask “Who,” instead of, “What,” when something goes wrong.
  5. Boldness violates organizational values.

4 principles of responsible boldness:

#1. Consider the connection between boldness and frustration.

Boldness born in anger focuses on DON’T WANT. But successful leadership is fundamentally about DO WANT.

DON’T-WANT boldness is useful when preventing things. DO-WANT boldness chases new opportunities.

Is it anger?

  1. You have higher expectations of others than of self. When sentences begin with “You” instead of “I”, you’re on the wrong bold-track.
  2. It’s motivated by your delay. You wrote an email two weeks ago, but didn’t follow up. You waited when you should have acted. Now you’re frustrated. Ambiguity causes anxiety. Anxiety turns to frustration. Frustration turns to offensive boldness.

Boldness that’s veiled anger is often motivated to make others look bad.

#2. Consider how boldness impacts others.

  1. How might bold action violate another’s responsibilities? Are you doing something assigned to another person or team?
  2. How might boldness elevate the status of others?
  3. How might boldness violate boundaries?
  4. How does boldness serve customers?

Some act boldly for their own projects, but seldom boldly row in someone else’s boat. Self-serving boldness alienates colleagues.

Organizational life requires you to act with others in mind.

#3. Consider the visibility of bold action.

High profile boldness requires buy-in from upper management.

#4. Consider your commitment to own disappointing results.

It’s not bold if success is certain.

  1. Are you prepared to apologize if you screw up?
  2. Do you have a track record of delivering results?
  3. How might your organization be better even if you fall short?

I’ve seen cavalier attitudes about disappointing results. If that’s you, forget about boldness. You have deeper concerns.

How might leaders practice responsible boldness?