I often find myself thinking about the importance of courage when I meet with leaders or their teams. Although it may not be recognized as such, fear often prevails as an undercurrent in many organizations, and it takes courageous leadership to counteract those forces and provide the confident, forward-looking direction required.
Courage in leadership manifests itself in many ways. Let’s take a look at a few.
The Courage to Stand Up For Your Team (Count the Cost)
In general, your team does its best to live up to your expectations and trust, but things can happen that may not be ideal, and decisions can be made by others that might not be optimal in your opinion. What does a courageous leader do at such a time?
I have a personal experience that illustrates this. When I was in a regional management position years ago, I made a decision to cancel a meeting during a snowy day when the local roads were quite slick. I hadn’t been able to reach my manager before I cancelled the meeting, so I went ahead and did what I thought would be best for everyone involved. Everyone was contacted about the cancellation. Later, when my manager heard about my decision, he told me to call everyone back and say that the meeting was still going to be held. This created confusion in our organization, and I felt that my manager didn’t trust my judgment. This action undermined my leadership credibility and caused me to be a bit “gun shy” for a period of time in other situations.
Sometimes, it takes courage to back up your team, even when you think someone has made a poor decision. A leader has to count the cost—what will do the most good or harm to both the individual and the organization? For me, knowing that I have a leader who “has my back” when I make the best decision under difficult circumstances is a hallmark of courage.
The Courage to Make Decisions and Move Forward
When it comes to leadership, a lot rides on your decisions. Recognizing the weight or importance of a decision can be a huge roadblock to forward movement if you allow yourself to become caught in a cycle of “analysis paralysis” or one delay after another for a whole host of reasons. As a leader, you’ve got to sharpen your decision-making skills and then move forward, realizing that there will always be challenges to overcome, or reasons not to take action regardless of how well you’ve chosen.
It helps to remember that you’ll never have all the information, no matter how long you delay a decision. Regardless of how much research you do, at some point you’re going to have to make the tough call, or you’ll never make the call at all. It also takes courage to trust yourself in your decisions. It may help to remember the times when you’ve made decisions that have turned out well for your organization and your employees. Being decisive and moving forward keeps your organization on a positive, upwards trajectory, and this inspires every member of your team.
The Courage to Give Credit to Others
Reputation counts for a lot in the business world, so it’s easy to get stuck in the mentality that you’ve got to help others to see just how hard you’re working and how much you’re contributing to your organization.
It takes courage to let go of the need for praise and give credit to those around you, but this can add immeasurably to the morale and unity of your team. It can feel scary at first because you may wonder if you’ll be rendered irrelevant and unnecessary if your people are seen as doing all the great things on your team. Remember that good leaders take responsibility when things don’t go so well and are generous in sharing the credit. A high-performing team will reflect positively on the leader. And, regardless of external recognition, there’s also an inherent satisfaction that comes with knowing you’ve made a difference in others’ performance. They’ll never forget how you helped or made them feel.
Be the kind of courageous leader your team members can look up to and follow. It can be tough, but the outcomes are worth the risks you take as you courageously lead your organization.
Paul Terry is principal at Paul Terry Consulting Group, a firm that specializes in helping people navigate their careers by increasing their capacity to align their skills and interests with the business needs. Visit www.paulterryconsultnggroup.com for more information.