Leadership Courage Revisited

Posted by Paradigm Learning on August 01, 2014

Leadership Courage

This week, I came across a very interesting research survey sent out by Training Industry titled Developing Courage in the Workplace. The survey was conducted to determine the importance of courage in various organizational roles and investigate the approaches to introduce courage into leadership, customer service, and sales training.

When I saw this, I was reminded about the importance of courage when we conducted our own leadership research back in 2012 – a necessity for all leaders. Here are some excerpts from my original blog, posted on November 14, 2012, entitled Leadership Courage: John Wayne Had It Right.

Paradigm Learning’s leadership effectiveness research study revealed that there is a much higher benchmark for leadership success in today’s organizations. Rather than simply “managing” a team or department, leaders at every level—from the executive suite to the front line—are now required to have…

  • A broader, more open and more mature perspective about the business
  • A more transparent, authentic and “real” personal approach
  • A willingness and ability to operate as part of a collective leadership team
  • A concern about the world, sustainability and giving back
  • An ability to be fast, flexible and innovative
  • A balanced personal and business life

At the same time, they are expected to be…

  • Risk takers
  • Emotionally intelligent
  • Open to diversity and constant change
  • Critical thinkers
  • Self-responsible and accepting of ownership for actions and behaviors
  • Collaborative
  • Ethical…and more

The list of skills, knowledge and attributes required of great leaders is long—and it can be confusing or even contradictory for managers as they navigate their ever-changing business environments.

But one leadership characteristic stands out separately and strengthens all others: courage.

Merriam-Webster defines courage as “…the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.” But John Wayne may have said it best: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

Stories of courage—or lack of it—play out every day at all levels of management. Some are major issues, of course, like deciding how to deal with an ethical issue or a serious breach of trust with customers. But courage also comes into play in the nuances of such day-to-day leadership situations as these:

  • Making decisions that are unpopular
  • Taking risks to drive new thinking and behavior, even when it’s easier to go along with the status quo
  • Persevering with an idea in the face of opposition
  • Accepting responsibility and accountability for one’s own actions and decisions—even one’s mistakes

Courage as a foundational attribute of effective leaders was an important consideration for us as we enhanced the storyline and decisions facing learners in Impact5: The Business of Leadership Game® simulation. We added a number of possible decisions to encourage small teams to consider both the easy and convenient responses and the potentially more courageous ones. As they grapple with the tough trade-offs, participants are challenged to make decisions that result in the most positive impact on the organization and the people in it.

We now conclude the program with a message about leadership courage, specifically its importance to the success of the business, departments, teams, employees and customers. Participants come to realize that it’s not always easy to act courageously in the face of confusion, fear, complexity or outright opposition.

The best leaders—those who act courageously in their business and personal lives—accept the challenges and, as the Duke says, “Saddle up!”

Topics: Leadership Development