The fourth component of the leadership template is courage. I must say this fourth component is one that I’m passionate about and certainly admire when I see it in leaders.
Aristotle called courage the first virtue, because it makes all of the other virtues possible. It’s one of the most important virtues you can have as a leader in today’s business world.
Courage – making decisions that may not be the popular choice. Being OK with being respected vs. liked and leading people down the path of uncertainty and change. It’s also about vulnerability.
Think about the expectations of leaders today. You must be able to innovate, ideate, collaborate and constantly disrupt how you are thinking. All of this takes courage because you’re often breaking tradition and creating new ways of doing things. Leadership means making bold and often unpopular decisions. Without courage, leadership has no impact.
Leaders today need the courage to:
- lead people through times of uncertainty and change
- calm the chaos even when you’re feeling confused
- be comfortable with being uncomfortable
- be ok with being wrong
- act decisive
- shun poor performance or poor behaviours
- veto dysfunction in the workplace
- be respected rather than liked
- have ‘hard conversations’ rather than avoiding them
- own their message and stand in their own spotlight
- lead and not please
- listen to all generations and learn from them
- engage the collective intelligence they have around them
- understand the leader doesn’t have all the answers
- accept they can’t be successful on their own
- own their strengths and weaknesses
- make decisions that are necessary for the business that may not be the popular choice.
There is another level to courage for leaders. This is vulnerability. Leaders often feel very uncomfortable when a level of vulnerability is almost necessary to move things forward or to come up with new solutions. But it’s when they can embrace this that they can take their leadership to a new level. We aren’t looking for infallible leaders made of iron and steel, 21st century leadership calls for real leadership. This real leadership is how you can engage, inspire and influence your people. Vulnerability is almost endearing to others and shows people that you are real, that you’re not perfect or have all the answers. This enables them to ‘buy into’ the situation more readily and take responsibility for what they can do and lead in their own way rather than constantly relying on you.
Leadership can be isolating, lonely and very daunting, especially in times of uncertainty and change. Leaders are looked upon to have all the answers, which they can’t possibly have. It takes courage to stand up and lead through these situations regardless of how you’re feeling. It also takes courage to be honest.
There’s so much a leader needs to face into today and in the future – that takes courage. It’s not an easy time to be a leader so have the courage to do what you need to do for the business, your team and your success. Courageous leadership will enable others to see what is possible for them and follow you to create greatness. Now that is powerful.