One of the most overlooked aspects of being a leader is the inherent need for personal courage.
“Personal courage is the ability to act on the tough but necessary decisions guided by a moral compass that serves to benefit the team or stated goals.” ~ David Stricklin
On Personal Courage
At a cocktail partly last night, I was discussing leadership with my cousin who is the director of operations for a global health care corporation. As we verbally crossed through the different aspects and principles of leadership, we quickly realized one of the most overlooked traits in writings today was the personal courage required to be a leader.
We both agreed strongly that personal courage must be a bedrock of leadership.
A quick search of the internet for leadership principles reveals over 13M returns but target this to personal courage and the returns are reduced by over 60%. To be successful, a leader must display both moral and physical courage. This is accomplished by showing a willingness to take calculated risks, acting independently, and demonstrating personal responsibility for their actions.
On Focus and Intensity
The leader must persist with focus and intensity even when faced with adversity and, in when faced with challenge, project confidence, credibility, and poise.
As Aristotle informed us so many years ago:
“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.” ~ Aristotle
Without personal courage, leadership cannot be effective, revolutionary change is not possible, evolutionary advancement will not occur and an organization will quickly find themselves on the express path to extinction.
The Personal Courage Required to Be a Leader
Leaders must have the personal courage to stand up for what is right.
They demand accountability…from followers, superiors and themselves. Leadership is about doing what is right, not just doing the right things. Successful leaders are never yes-people, but they respectfully dissent.
They also understand that decisions may be delegated but responsibility can not. Courageous leaders are always responsible for their actions.
Leaders must have the personal courage to make decisions.
A leader is continually asked to make decisions with incomplete and variable data sets. The choices many times are not right or wrong, but differing degrees of good enough with conflicting second and third order effects. This draws many leaders into analysis paralysis where a decision is delayed into nonexistence because of the continual search for a perfect solution.
A courageous and dynamic leader knows their worth is determined by their ability to properly analyze situations and take deliberate, calculated risks to move the team forward.
Leaders must have the personal courage to ensure positive change.
It takes courage to question everything, to break from the status quo, to challenge the norm and determine how it could be improved.
A successful leader strives to make positive change every day.
They are not afraid of leading paradigm shifts to ensure success and positive progress.
Leaders must have the personal courage to deliver bad news as well as good news.
All leaders deliver good news, good leaders delivers bad news. Negative feedback is painful for both sides, but your followers will appreciate your candor when their behavior is improved in the early stages of poor or unsatisfactory performance instead of waiting until the issue becomes so large it is almost impossible to deal with simply.
We have all needed constructive criticism in our lives. A successful leader cares about their followers enough to have the awkward conversations to discuss missteps, mistakes, or mannerisms.
Making each person better helps the team be better. It takes personal courage to do the right thing and not just calm the troubled waters in your organization.
Leaders must have the personal courage to develop their followers.
True leadership is not found in an individual, but the people developed. The true measure of a leader is not just measured by success of their organization, but by the measure of leaders they influence and develop to follow in their footsteps.
Successful leaders invest in the future of their followers and not just the organization.
The more you care about your followers, the more personal pride and motivation they will feel toward you and your organization.
Leaders must have the personal courage to delegate.
Leaders must give their team vision…Courageous leaders trust their team to execute their vision. As any new leader can attest, one of the toughest actions is to do nothing on a task and trust your team to execute your direction and wishes.
This is the transition from a tactical level action officer to an organizational and strategic level leader.
Leaders must have the personal courage to seek help from others.
Leadership has many aspects and principles, but the first building block of a successful leader must be personal courage. The U.S. Air Force defines courage as what allows you to remain calm while recognizing fear.
Further, moral courage means having the inner strength to stand up for what is right and to accept blame when something is your fault.
Improving Your Personal Courage
The obvious question looming is how do you improve your personal courage? You can begin your quest to control fear by practicing self-discipline and calmness. Determine the area in which you experience the most fear in your daily life, and your leadership duties, then force yourself to do them until you can satisfactorily control your reaction.
Personal courage allows the right questions to be asked, followers to be developed and credibility established.
Persoanal courage is simply not letting your fears overcome your goals and define you. It is the ability to admit and learn from your mistakes, and the continual quest to become a better person.
“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” ~ Billy Graham
What aspects do you consider vital in the personal courage to be a leader? How do you improve your personal courage? Is there any other aspect of leadership which you consider more important? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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Chris R. Stricklin is Chief Growth Officer of The General Leadership Foundation.
He is a Leader, Mentor and Coach integrating Fields of Negotiations and Leadership
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