Nobody wants to work for a wimp. If the boss is always anxious, more prone to wringing his or her hands than taking decisive action, what message does that send to employees? Poor leadership can be a sign to employees that they’re on a sinking ship or – for those whose mission is to do as little as possible – that they can get away with anything because the boss doesn’t have the guts to take action.
These are extreme examples. But leading a company – especially in a challenging business climate – requires real courage. It takes grit. And your employees won’t rally behind you unless they see that you’ve got it.
What Is Courageous Leadership?
Courage means different things in different situations. For leaders operating in today’s tough environment, it can be:
- The ability to make a decision and act, even when you’re operating in unfamiliar territory. To weigh out the pros and cons and, even when there is no perfect solution, determine what you can live with and take the appropriate action.
- The strength to make painful but necessary cuts, whether laying off employees or “firing” unprofitable customers. One member of my peer advisory group recently moved his company out of a prestigious corporate park into a less impressive, but more affordable space. That took guts.
- The willingness to invest in new ventures and take on risk. Another entrepreneur in that same peer group is expanding her company. She’s hiring new employees and upgrading her office space. That takes guts, too, especially now.
- The ability to delegate responsibility to employees. You must be able to accept their mistakes, too.
- Just make sure everyone learns from them.
- The honesty to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Don’t let pride make you forge ahead in the wrong direction. Own up to your errors so you can correct them.
- The willingness to entertain new ideas and challenge your assumptions. The business world is changing. To stay ahead, you need to be able to change your perceptions.
The recession has forced many entrepreneurs to draw on hidden reservoirs of courage. But it has left others less confident. They curled up and let the storm pass overhead. If it worked as a survival tactic, that’s okay. But now it’s time to get up and get back to work.
You can’t grow your business without taking risk. Think back to your early days. Obviously, you weren’t afraid of risk back then, or you wouldn’t have gone into business in the first place. Stop focusing on what you have to lose and think of what you have to gain. Channel your early entrepreneurial spirit. If you’ve been operating in a reactive mode, become more proactive. Delegate some new projects to employees. Take small, fairly safe risks. Deal with business problems you’ve been avoiding. Create momentum. In business and in life, courage is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.