To be great leader, you must have courage—the courage to do what needs to be done. The courage to take that giant leap forward when you know the time is right. The courage to fire someone when that person is no longer right for the job. The courage to sacrifice one person for the good of the rest and for the good of the company. The courage to stick to the company’s values even when it hurts. The courage to put the customer first even when it hurts. The courage to invest in the future even when you don’t have all the resources you need. The courage to do the unpopular thing, when no one else will do it. The courage to put the good of the company above all else. The courage to admit when you are wrong. The courage to be different. And finally, the courage to leave the company when you know it is time for someone else to take over.
Courage is an easy word to say, but a very difficult quality to have. If you have the courage and the energy to execute, then you will be a great leader. Because courage takes energy to get out there and fight for what is right every single day of your life. It takes energy to work with your team and tell them over and over what they need to do.
Leaders who exemplify courage are leaders who inspire. They inspire their own people to be brave. They encourage their teams to do what is right. The old saying, “you have to talk the talk and walk the walk” is never truer than when a leader wants to instill his team with the courage to do what is right.
If you strive to be a great leader, one who exemplifies courage and exudes inspiration, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:
- Do I listen intentionally to people and try to really understand what they are saying?
- If I think I already have a solution to a problem, will I listen to my team just to make sure it is the best solution?
- If they come up with a better solution, will I have the courage to change my mind and go with their solution?
- Am I open to having honest conversations with my associates? Do I encourage them to speak their minds, even to the point when it hurts?
- Do I have the courage to stick to my guns when it comes to making a decision that is right for the customer and is ethically right as well, but in the end, could hurt our company?
- Am I willing to do difficult things for the sake of the company?
- Do I have the courage to fire a once valuable employee who is no longer cutting it, even if he is a friend?
- Do I have the courage to stand up for what is right, to speak out and try to do something about it, even though my stance is tremendously unpopular?
- Do I have the courage and the energy to work day after day, saying the same things over and over, until the right kind of change comes to the company?
- Do I have the courage to stop a project and admit we made a mistake when it becomes evident that the project is not going anywhere?
- Do I have the courage to reach out to the fellow company owners in my industry when I feel that a partnership could be good for the industry?
- Do I have the courage to take my pretty good company and change it to make it great?
- Am I willing to accept someone else’s idea, even if it is diametrically opposite to my own, if it shows merit?
Please read these questions carefully and then answer them honestly. What do you think? Do you have the courage that you need to be a good and inspirational leader?
Here is a quote from Kristi Hedges’ excellent new book, The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day:
“Courage isn’t an abstraction, but a series of discrete, smaller choices one makes that build courage. We can try courage, trust courage, and tell courage… Courageous leadership requires clear choices, saying no to some opportunities to be able to say yes to some others…. Courageous moves that are desired from leaders include the courage to have honest conversations, prioritize purposes, be real, lead by values, jump, and let go.”
Certainly, there are other values that contribute to the make-up of a great leader, but without courage there can be no great leadership.
It’s only common sense.