Being a good leader takes courage. Courage to stand up for your beliefs and the advocacy of your teams, and courage to say no to things that contradict your values. Courageous leaders take calculated risks to move their vision forward. Why do some choose this more difficult path while others go with the flow?
A Harvard Business Review article states that the 5 characteristics of a courageous leader are authenticity, resilience, emotional intelligence, self-discipline, and commitment to purpose. Having learned how to be (and how not to be as a leader), I thrive to embody these characteristics and promote them with my team too. Recently these characteristics have been challenged in me as my organization is undergoing a merger and the behaviors I am seeing from more senior level leaders are lacking these virtues.
Authenticity to me means being honest and forthcoming at all times. It means operating in good will for all stakeholders involved. Behaving this way, even if it is scary and the odds are not in your favor, is the ultimate hallmark of a courageous leader. In my current situation, I am being asked to follow the lead of the people I work with to “tactfully” navigate this merger process. When I don’t fall in line and challenge the status-quo, I am told to “read up” on how these processes usually work. As a leader who is walking my talk with my team, and exhibiting that behavior for my peers, I cannot simply tow the line for something I don’t believe in.
This is where the rest of the characteristics come into play for me. I KNOW wholeheartedly (emotional intelligence) that not acting in good faith when negotiating with another party isn’t a good way to start a relationship. I think we learned the basis of that in kindergarten (does The Golden Rule ring a bell?). I also know that conveying this to the leaders of this process will take some time, and tact – I can’t just beat it into them (self-discipline). By being patient, deliberate in approach, and data driven, I will be able to appropriately influence the process and keep my values in tact (resilience).
I have found a comfort in defining my purpose and staying committed to it. It is a wonderful grounding force as I lead both formally at work, and informally with my friends and family. It provides a certain solace and peace as I navigate my professional life. I make sure to share this journey with others in an effort to encourage such a connection. So often I witness this distinct separation between connecting and producing which leaves the latter lacking in substance. I think there is something to be said for putting your heart into what you do – especially at work.
Courage is a skill that should be cultivated and rewarded in our teams. Managed appropriately, it can provide agency and strengthen relationships. What are some ways you will promote courage in your workplace this week? Drop a comment and let’s talk about it!