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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

“Leadership Courage” by David Cottrell and Eric Harvey

The following excerpt from the book “Leadership Courage” by David Cottrell and Eric Harvey has been passed along by Jackie Marcum. It'll make you want to go buy the book and read it. It's now on my reading list. Enjoy...

A common requirement of leaders at all levels is having the courage to make tough decisions and take difficult actions. Courage is frequently discussed in meetings, rated in performance appraisals, and listened for in promotion interviews. Almost all would agree that it’s an important element of successful leadership. Yet, becoming a courageous leader involves a lot more than talking, rating, and correctly answering interview questions. The dictionary definition of courage is “the state or quality of mind and spirit that enables one to face danger or fear with confidence and resolution; bravery; valor.” But what does all that mean in the business world? How can it be measured and quantified?

Perhaps the best way to understand courage is to define its opposite state. Some would say the antithesis of courage is “cowardliness” … avoiding (or succumbing to) pressure, difficulty, and danger. Others would say “fear” … being afraid to do the right thing when the going gets tough. Certainly, both of those answers are logical and appropriate. But there’s another description of the opposite of courage – one not as commonly thought of, although equally valid. That description is “conformity” … letting things be the way they have always been because of the high price associated with changing them.

As a leader, you need courage to do what needs to be done … to do what you know is the right thing. There will always be those who tell you you’re wrong – even when you’re thoroughly convinced that you’re right. There will always be some tempting you to take an easier and less resistant path. And, there will always be those who – either unintentionally or purposefully – create obstacles that will challenge your mettle. Even the very best leaders must regularly pass the courage test. Courage is about having the guts, nerve, and heart to do things that foster and support progress. And that begins with the realization that:
1) improvement won’t be found on the path of least resistance known as conformity, and
2) status quo is the archenemy of progress.
When you think about it, “doing things the way we’ve always done them” requires no leadership at all. What is there to lead to? How can others follow someone who’s not going anywhere? That’s why “leadership” and “courage” must be viewed as synonymous concepts.

To become a courageous leader, you must have an undeniable, indisputable, unwavering commitment to be the best you can be. The true measure of your leadership is the ability to look in the mirror and know that you had the courage to do what you felt was the right thing to do. The people you lead are counting on you. Don’t let them down.

For every person in every organization, there comes a moment when he or she must have the courage to step forward and meet the needs of the time. Regardless of whether your moment is now or sometime in the future, you must be ready.