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Courageous Leadership

Optimize Blog - March 20, 2017 - 0 comments

We hear this term a lot these days but what does it actually mean? We believe that it is meant to be a call to commit and to act. It refers to the act of making hard choices, taking risks and doing what’s right even if it’s unpopular. Sometimes though, people hijack words and sayings to fit their own ends. They may brandish words like courage, innovation, and integrity, but when we look closely at the real message – are these words actually capable of motivating?
How people live and demonstrate their values is far more important than what they say and after all, we are what we consistently do. As leaders it is essential that we are courageous and do the right thing because when there is a breakdown between the rhetoric and the reality, we usually find a demoralized organization plagued with distrust, a lack of engagement and doubt.
Leaders could read every leadership book, but their insecurities would prevent them from absorbing many of the lessons and like you have heard from us before, if it was as easy as reading a book, then we would all be great leaders. Like everyone, leaders view themselves as the heroes of their stories and often they will deny or rationalize whatever contradicts that perspective. For people such as this, having this blind spot is a blessing because it saves them from fully knowing how weak they really are. However these double standards cut both ways and for leaders, they often become the foundation for their downfall.
The fact is that leaders don’t show courage just by taking a stand or handling the odd crisis. Real courage is a mentality that’s reflected in our day-to-day lives. It requires awareness, openness, and perseverance. So how do you separate truly courageous leaders from the phonies?
Many times, leaders panic as their flawed foundation begins to crumble. Their first instinct is to close ranks, lash out, and tighten their grip adopting a “with us or against us” mantra. They quickly relinquish open door policies and confidentiality and they revert to command and control tactics.
As we see this happening we witness employees wondering what the leadership group is so afraid to face. This results in compliance but not commitment or engagement. Some leaders act this way because they don’t trust their employees but the reality perhaps is that they sense their employees can already see through them.
Alternatively we sometimes see leaders saying what they don’t believe, sugarcoating the truth so people hear what they want to hear. While these words may appeal to their aspirations, they’re really adopted for appearances. They’re window dressing and they prevent investment into the fundamentals of good leadership. Few things discredit a leader faster than being perceived as fake.
We do however find courageous leaders from time to time and we recognize them by the way they behave, not the words that they utter. Sometimes we see them sitting back quietly but then knowing when to step up, to give direction, or to take action. They care little for the trappings of leadership, focusing instead on setting the example for their peers and those that are asked to follow them. They seek out opinions and build relationships. To them, mutual respect fosters trust and gathering ideas only helps them identify challenges sooner. In short, they anticipate and act before they need to do so.
In our view this is true courageous leadership. It is the art and skill of making the decisions and modeling the behaviors that keep organizations out of crisis situations in the first place……

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