Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Becoming a Courageous Leader: Do You, like Me, Admire Courageous Leadership? but Do You Also Think of This Quality as Being in the Province of Others Who Are Somehow Stronger?

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Becoming a Courageous Leader: Do You, like Me, Admire Courageous Leadership? but Do You Also Think of This Quality as Being in the Province of Others Who Are Somehow Stronger?

Article excerpt

Mohandas Ghandi said: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." If you indeed aspire to become a more effective agent of change, you can accomplish this through simple actions that need not risk your professional livelihood.

Let's start by clarifying some terms. "Courage" comes from the Latin "cor" for heart. To be "courageous" means taking heartfelt actions. I suggest the opposite of courage is not cowardice or fearfulness but being disheartened, giving up, not doing what you deeply sense is needed. And I define leadership as the ability to attain positive results by working with and through others.

Courageous leadership can boost morale, energize an organization, elevate trust, improve credibility and engender involvement on all levels. In our work with many companies throughout the world, I've seen far more examples of people following heartened leadership as opposed to following someone because of position or title.

But it's easy to talk about being courageous--and ironically many of us emphasize heightening awareness of risks rather than reducing them. Given this, what can we practically do to become more courageous leaders? This was the topic of a recent seminar I presented at ASSE's Leadership Symposium. Here are five Courage Counts:

1. Cultivate strong self-honesty. Develop cold self-appraisal. Before blaming others, look at what you might have done more or less of, or differently. Ask yourself, as did one leadership expert: "Am I ready for change or am I ready to change?" Solicit outside courageous feedback that goes beyond back-patting. Assume you're sending mixed messages--root these out. Don't let yourself make excuses for less-than-stellar results--you can use this as an opportunity to model personal responsibility.

2. Practice becoming comfortable with discomfort. Good isn't the enemy of great; comfort and self-satisfaction are the foes of best-in-class leadership. Learn new skills (even as simple as employing your non-dominant hand more). Monitor your reactions to ambiguity or uncertainty (impatience? uneasiness?). Practice watchful waiting. Elicit--don't merely accept--dissent. Break out of accustomed ways of doing things (that have worked to a point).

3. Seek out and destroy. Retire tired interventions that may have once gotten attention but have now faded into the background. Root out "fast-food" safety interventions that unrealistically promise everything for almost nothing. …

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