August 5, 2009 Chris Fuller

Leaders need courage

Whether you’re facing down 1100 miles of frozen tundra, a hostile business climate, or even a 360 peer review – courage is critical.

In every leader’s day to day there are times when we would prefer not to be as courageous as we need to be. We don’t always want to face the challenges in front of us, admit weaknesses (or areas needing improvement) in our leadership skill set, or stare down adversity raging like a storm off the Bering Sea – but if we are to continue to be the leader – it’s part of our job description.

Great Leaders understand that without risk there can be no reward.

There will always be risk – in business, in life, in Iditarod – Leaders know, understand and process this accordingly. It’s not that leaders lack fear – the fear is still there – it’s what you do with the fear and how you process it that makes the difference. Courage isn’t an absence of fear. It’s doing what you’re afraid to do. It’s pushing past the fear to a place of internal power – to leave the last checkpoint and ‘Mush off the Map!’ Think about it – if there were no fear – you wouldn’t need courage..

I heard of a leader that illustrated this point by handing his people 3 pieces of paper with choices on them.

  1. ‘Try and succeed’
  2. ‘Try and potentially fail’
  3. ‘Don’t try and therefore never fail’

Leaders value action – and to ‘not try’ is not an option for us if we want to succeed. Courage is looking at all the options, regardless of how unpleasant, making the best decision at the time, and starting.

Remember: just because you start down a path – doesn’t mean that you can’t change – that you must stay on that path forever. If you start down a path and it’s not working – see what needs to be changed and act on that, as well.

To increase your courage:

  • Do the homework. There is no substitute for having as much of the known knowledge as possible. Leaders need to make informed decisions and that comes from having the right information – the good and the bad.
  • Have open, honest discussions with rigorous debate about the appropriate course of action – when the mission or change is critical – this is not the time to hold back opinions – allow the debate to get spirited within the right boundaries.
  • Gain wise counsel. Counsel can come from many sources – but needs to come from the right sources. You can take information from many – but limit counsel to the right people.
  • Best Case / Worst Case. Play out both scenarios and weigh the cost of each – if you can live with the worst case – go for it!
  • Act – you have to act – you have to move and look for the very next logical step and take it! Then look for the next step and take it – before long you’ll be moving in the direction of success. Remember – it’s much easier to turn a moving sled than one that is stopped and anchored!
  • Evaluate – look back at this section in the RACE postings – evaluate at regular intervals and respond accordingly!

Fear will be present. As leaders we accept this. Criticism will always be present – we must accept this, too. If you weren’t attempting something great – people would not have cause to criticize.

If I were beside you today – I would encourage you that you can succeed – walk it out step by step – checkpoint by checkpoint – you’ll get there. And when you do – we’ll have a drink in the lodge together and celebrate!

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