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Growing a Pair

Optimize Blog - March 20, 2014 - 0 comments

Making smart business decisions and doing the right thing is critical. That’s true not just in terms of strategy but also relationships (whether to fire the toxic high performer or address a conflict head-on). All actions have consequences – every act demands its price. So does any lack of action.
With the margin for error in business often being slim, any leader needs to make sure that he or she is thinking as coolly and clearly as possible – the discipline of critical thinking which we have written about many times before.
The most detrimental leadership characteristic we can think of here at Zeitgeist would have to be cowardice. We can’t think of anything else that could define a leader that would have a more detrimental impact on an organization than leading from a place of fear.
Now we need to make it clear that we recognize that we all feel and experience fear but what separates the poor leader from the good and the great is how the leader responds to that fear. Courageous leaders face what needs to be faced and do what needs to be done. Cowardly leaders make excuses, hide their heads in the sand, and generally take the easy way out. This is the premise of Mike Staver’s book “Leadership isn’t for cowards” (Wiley, June 2012, ISBN: 978-1-118-17683-2,) and in it Staver suggests that leaders may well be cowards without even realizing it,
By definition, says Staver, all leaders “mess with people’s lives.” That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re leading from a place of clarity and awareness—courage—and not letting fear drive your decisions.
“Whether you’re messing with their lives in a positive, growth-inspiring way or a negative, spirit-crushing way depends on the clarity with which you make decisions and execute,” he explains. “Fear obscures that clarity—especially fear that masquerades as something else.”
You don’t have to be an out-and-out coward to let fear impact your leadership. Many people are unaware of how profoundly fear influences their decision making. Many times, leaders panic when the tough decisions need to be made. Their first instinct is to close ranks, lash out, and tighten their grip. Paranoid and desperate, they may even adopt an “Are you with us or against us” mantra. Open door policies disappear, more and more data is asked for, paralysis ensues and clear direction dissolves.
The whole time, the employees wonder, “what is our leadership so afraid to face?” Their measures produce compliance, not commitment. Worse, they make leaders look deserving of the criticism and guilty of the accusations.
We hear the term ‘courageous leadership’ a lot these days and perhaps conceptually we all get it, but in too many cases we see destructive leadership behavior impacting the organization as fear fuels their actions.
Being courageous as a leader is a simple concept and is achieved by doing the right thing. We don’t need to over complicate this. Not doing the right thing is the coward’s way out…..

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