Leadership Courage is not something we talk about right now. Transparency and empathy seem to fill blogs and articles right now. And those are good things, but they are not the only thing. Recently, I’ve seen leaders in my circle take courageous actions to move their business forward. I’ve also seen some struggling to take their business forward as they do not yet dare to take that next step.
The opportunities for leaders to display courage are endless. Every day they are making decisions, setting direction, and initiating change. And very often, they do it standing alone, even while surrounded by their teams. Why? Because the buck stops with the leader. They ultimately are responsible for and must own their decisions.
Leadership Courage and Making Tough Decisions
Making tough decisions is probably the most significant burden on many leaders—especially those who don’t have enough experience to be confident in their choices. Imposter Syndrome and second-guessing are the undoings of many leaders when they stand in the way of doing what they need to do.
One of my favorite leadership quotes comes from Jeremy Foley, former University of Florida Athletic Director. He famously said about making coaching changes:
“What should be done eventually must be done immediately.”
As leaders, we can see the decisions we have to make. Sometimes we know them subconsciously, and it manifests as a sort of mental malaise. Why? Because we haven’t yet let our conscious mind admit what we already know. There is a tough decision ahead, and we have to make it. And where we fail as leaders is when we wait. As an old boss once told me, “problems don’t age well.”
So, what do we do? We call on our courage to make that tough decision. If we think we need more information to act, then make a plan to get that information. Set a deadline for action. And then build a plan to hit that deadline decisively. I’m not suggesting it will be easy, but you will feel better immediately once you make the decision.
Taking Risks, Leading Change
“If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.” Neil Gaiman
It takes leadership courage to take the risk. The greatest upsides often come with the greatest risks. And not everyone is willing to make the big gamble. The reality is that most large companies will take the less risky option and accept the smaller return.
And yes, when you step out into significant risk, there is a chance you will fail. But even in failure, there is learning. And that will allow you to take bigger swings in the future with fewer risks because you will (hopefully) not make the same mistakes twice.
Of all the risks you face in business, some of the toughest will be leading change. We don’t like change. Our teams don’t like it either. It forces all of us to stretch. Yet, change is a difference-maker.
I’m working with many leaders right now who realize that doing more of the same will result in the same outcomes. And they’re pushing the envelope with their business. They are taking the big swings.
And when you lead significant change efforts, you will likely experience changes you weren’t prepared for. Some of these leaders are making challenging changes in their businesses. And those changes are in line with their vision for the future. Not everyone in their company agrees with the vision, or their role is no longer aligned with it. And, as a result, team members are no longer with the company. And that’s OK.
Trusting Your Team
Leaders, we can’t do everything. And sometimes, our most courageous decision is to trust our team.
You would not think this is a problem for leaders, but it can be. Sometimes, we are a leader who likes to get things done ourselves. At a certain point in our company’s trajectory, we can’t continue to live in the weeds. We need to delegate, ask our team to do the work, and trust in their results. So, how do we do that?
I’ve talked about this in prior blogs here and here. The short answer is:
- Build a plan for your business that clarifies where you are taking your business, what results matter the most, and prioritizes the work to be done.
- Build the right team around you, align them around the plan, and meet regularly to track progress.
If we don’t trust our team, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
Would you like to learn how you can become a better leader? How can you reduce the second-guessing beat back imposter syndrome and lead with confidence? Then let’s set up a call to talk about your leadership goals.