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:
- Upper management believes the status quo is daring.
- Everyone colors within the lines.
- Responsible failure is punished.
- Leaders ask “Who,” instead of, “What,” when something goes wrong.
- 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?
- You have higher expectations of others than of self. When sentences begin with “You” instead of “I”, you’re on the wrong bold-track.
- 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.
- How might bold action violate another’s responsibilities? Are you doing something assigned to another person or team?
- How might boldness elevate the status of others?
- How might boldness violate boundaries?
- 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.
- Are you prepared to apologize if you screw up?
- Do you have a track record of delivering results?
- 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?
Ouch! I think the scientific contract research (CRO) industry score 5 for 5 for “perilous reasons”!
Boldness within the ranks is too often seen as threatening to those in power.
Only TRUE leaders will encourage boldness among their followers.
“High profile boldness requires buy-in from upper management.”
The lesson with this truism, don’t let your boldness become a career incident.
Nice piece and reminder, Dan.
I absolutely love your articles. They are so insightful. And they help me solve my own issues I have been struggling with. Only yours and Seth Godin can give insights that are so much in depth and helpful us mortals.
People show their boldness in two ways- First they are bold from within and second they are bold because of someone in power. First category of bold brings is responsible boldness. And it can be perilous. Since it also challenges the status quo, many leaders may not accept it. They might feel threatened. Second category of boldness is not perilous because it is supported by superiors. Such boldness is intended to please someone in power. And when such dynamics present in the system, responsible boldness is treated as perilous.
I think leaders can practice responsible boldness by proper communication. They can convey strong message that help people to grow. Every one is concerned about growth. So, boldness should show the path to directionless people. Once message is communicated effectively, I think people will welcome and accept responsible boldness.
Spot on, being Bold can upset the apple cart or change course of people’s careers in both positive and negative ways. One of the keys is how our actions affect others and the results that can occur.
Think before you act!
I feel as though I have been increasingly bold lately. I will ask questions of Operations that others do not, and people have noticed. In good ways! My questions can be bold, but they are only questions. They are meant to determine if we are on the right path or not as a company, or department. I want to ask questions to make sure people have thought of something before they make their decision. I want to get people thinking. I want to push them. There are times where these questions come from a place of anger, but usually I will keep those to myself at that point.
IMHO (and experience), it’s not BOLD (nor is it inspirational leadership) if you already have buy-in from management…
leadership is about developing a groundswell for change, which is ALWAYS resisted by management because it leads to increased complexity (read : entropy / chaos).
So, it’s ALWAYS perilous – that’s what makes it bold;
and you are right – never allow your expressions to be perceived as frustration (much less anger) … because they will beat you in the PR game every time.
Your article really touched me. The thought of when boldness is perilous: When the first response in an organization is Who, not What. Oh, so true!
Bravo. All this goes for raising a family too … if we let them fail, they become better, stronger men / women. If failure isn’t an option, we deprive them of the key to success.
True, so true, Joanne…
Failure is NOT an option …
It is an imperative, for learning, for growth;
Be so BOLD as it hurts only you if it doesn’t work …
Others will follow if it does;