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4 Keys To Leading With Courage

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As the economy emerges from its slump, we know that a couple of things can happen. One: We can live in fear that it could happen again. Or worse, we can be complacent, and just continue to go through the motions knowing that this will, in fact, happen again. It’s just a matter of time, you think. Two: We can learn from the past and continue to make bold, confident decisions to do things differently in a way that supports long-term sustained agility and success. One of the clear lessons that came out of this recent, volatility is that those organizations that invested in talent, innovation and leadership emerged better equipped and ready to play for the future. Organizations that chose to focus and invest in talent, innovation, and leadership during the downward spiral shared another thing in common. They demonstrated the one thing that will continue to be required going forward: courageous leadership. Many thought that investment in the “non-tangibles” was not smart. And yet, it is those organizations that are now leading the charge to recovery. In other words, companies that build and support cultures anchored in courageous leadership will be the winners in the quest for long-term success. So what is courageous leadership? Is it a state of mind? Is it a virtue? Is it a set of behaviors and actions? Is it a critical part of your brand? It is all of the above. While there are many behaviors that support the growth of courageous leadership and courageous cultures, here are four tips that will help amplify its development and result in impact and results that really matter. 1. Promote self-awareness. Know who you are, what you are afraid of, what you are inspired by and what your typical patterns of resistance look like. Self-awareness puts us in the seat of choice. Once we become aware, we have the power to choose consciously and take responsibility for the choices we make. When we are increasingly aware of our strengths and gaps, we can surround ourselves with talent that complements our skills and attributes. Knowing how we typically respond under pressure gives us the power to make a different choice if our traditional approach is not constructive. Maintaining clarity about our fears and patterns of resistance allows us the choice and opportunity to feel the fear and do it anyway – to choose an alternative behavior that moves us through our resistance versus burying our heads in the sand. After all, it is our places of resistance that hold the greatest potential for growth. There is a direct correlation between this vulnerability and courage. Our willingness to admit that we don’t have all of the answers makes us real and consequently builds trust. It provides an opportunity to ask big things of our teams and give them the chance to be more than they thought they could be. 2. Meet reality. There are times where our resistance takes the form of refusing to see the reality of our situations. It is one thing to be optimistic and tenacious. But sometimes that optimism crosses the threshold into denial. Once there, we find ourselves in a position where we have to react versus respond. Think about gardens. There are times where they are at their peak. Suddenly, we look out one day and there are dead flowers, overgrown bushes and dry grass. We wonder how that happened without our noticing. A good gardener will go out and prune the overgrowth, pinch off the dead blooms and water the grass. Courageous leaders are willing to do both the pruning and watering in order to prepare for new growth. Courageous leaders are willing to see things for how and what they truly are and have an inner circle that supports their ability to do so in a balanced and informed way. Upon acceptance of reality, courageous leaders are poised to inspire action in others that leads to a future distinct from the past. 3. Inspire innovation. When we take the time to look at the horizon line, to anticipate changes in the marketplace, in our clients, and in how business is getting done, we create a culture that is quick, agile, and innovative – in other words, a courageous culture. Courageous leaders do not simply lean into change and innovation. They understand deeply that change and innovation are the life blood of sustainable success. Courage supports the ability to consistently ask the question, “what if?” Courageous leaders encourage experimentation, take calculated risks and allow for failure by focusing on the learning that comes from the experience. They trust their talent and encourage ways to leverage that talent to its fullest. As organizations move out of the slump, it is easy to remain fearful which often leads to playing smaller than we are capable of playing. Courageous leaders focus on possibility versus fear. They are bold and willing to take calculated risks to continue to explore what can be done versus what can’t be done. 4. Stand up. Courageous leadership is not for the faint of heart. It may require stepping beyond your fear of rejection to raise difficult issues, provide balanced feedback, have challenging conversations, and make decisions that may not always be popular. It may often require going against the tide or tradition or “the way we have always done it” for the greater good. It is holding up the mirror to help others see what they have been unwilling to see or hear. It is challenging people to try a different approach – asking why not? Courageous leaders make choices intentionally and take responsibility for those choices. They step up boldly, lean in, speak the truth, focus on what is possible, make decisions for the highest good and inspire others to do the same. Leaders have the capacity and responsibility to move forward in courage, particularly as our businesses, communities, country and world continue to become more complex. You have a choice. Be bold. Be brave. Step into your courageous leadership to continue to make a difference. It is your time to move purposefully beyond fear into a brave, bold, courageous future.