Courage – The Sixth C of Leadership

The sixth C, Courage, refers to the leader’s willingness to seize opportunities despite the inherent risk and uncertainties.  It is easy to have an idea.  Many people are quick to point out problems, and even speculate about solutions.  What sets leaders apart is that they have the courage to act on those ideas and implement those solutions.  It should be emphasized that courage is not about fearlessness.  It is about being afraid and moving forward anyway.  It is about pursuing a passion – a purpose – that is greater than one’s fear.

Leaders influence change toward a common vision.  Change can be inherently difficult, and sometimes frightening.  It involves leaving the realm of “what is” for “what could be.”  This is risky and requires courage.  Why are leaders willing to take this risk?  They do so because the best leaders understand that failure, while it hurts in the moment, is a passing thing.  Regret is not.  The regret that comes from not trying – from missed opportunities – can last a lifetime.  So, even more than failure, leaders fear regret.  They understand the adage, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

Leadership experts, Kouzes and Posner (2006) refer to this willingness to take risks as “Challenge the Process” and describe it as “searching for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow, and improve” and “experimenting and taking risks” (p. 5).  What is known is usually safe; the unknown is often risky.  That is why one of the main ways leaders can encourage others is by creating a safe space for team members to take risks.  Leaders can do this in two primary ways: (1) providing help and support to an individual taking a risk and/or trying to achieve a goal; and (2) treating failures as learning opportunities.

One theory that addresses the role the leader should play in their followers’ goal achievement is path-goal theory.  According to Northouse (2010), path-goal theory involves leaders who “help subordinates define their goals and the paths they want to take…when obstacles arise…[it] may mean helping the subordinate around the obstacle, or it may mean removing the obstacle” (p. 132).  It emphasizes that it becomes the leader’s job to provide appropriate support to the subordinates.  Similarly, organizational change expert Kotter (1995) refers to it as empowering others to act on the vision.

Kotter (1995) echoes path-goal theory when he states that empowering others involves removing obstacles for employees trying to contribute to the vision.  “Renewal [achieving the vision] also requires the removal of obstacles” (p. 7).  Gill (2003) also recognizes the importance of empowering those carrying out a vision or change initiative.  To him, empowerment involves “giving people knowledge, skills, opportunity, freedom, self-confidence, and resources to manage themselves and be accountable” (p. 315).

In addition to empowering – rather encouraging – others, leaders can develop a risk taking culture by viewing mistakes and failures as learning opportunities instead of immediate grounds for dismissal (Kouzes & Posner, 2006).  Thomas (2009) puts it this way:

Progress and learning, then, mean expecting and allowing some honest mistakes – and using them as important learning opportunities.  If workers are afraid of being punished for honest mistakes, they are likely to play it safe and stay very close to well-established, tried-and-true solutions. (p. 165)

While followers must be held accountable, creating a no-fail culture will severely cut down on innovation and growth.

These principles presented by Kouzes and Posner (2006), Thomas (2009), and the path-goal theory are also reflected in the transformational leadership model.  Specifically, intellectual stimulation, one of the four factors of transformational leadership, involves supporting “…followers as they try new approaches and develop innovative ways of dealing with organizational issues” (Northouse, 2010, p. 179).

Finally, in addition to having the courage to take risks and cultivating this same courage in others, it is also important for leaders to take the time to celebrate success.

[As was discussed in a previous blog post, here at Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”  In order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model which consists of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; (2) Character; (3) Catalyst; (4) Compassion; (5) Communication; (6) Courage; and (7) Celebration.  Embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels and ultimately results in real transformation and sustainable results.]

Referenced Works:

  • Gill R., (2003). Change management or change leadership. Journal of Change Management 3(4), 307-318.
  • Kotter, J.P. (1995). Leading change: Why transformational efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 73(2), 1-9.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Thomas, K.W. (2009).  Intrinsic motivation at work: What really drives employee engagement. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler.

Super Bowl Wisdom

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In honor of this weekend’s Super Bowl, we thought it fitting to put together our Top 6 Words of Wisdom from football legend, Vince Lombardi:  

  1. “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”
  2. “Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”
  3. “The good Lord gave you a body that can stand most anything. It’s your mind you have to convince.”
  4. “Winning is not everything – but making the effort to win is.”
  5.  “Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
  6. “They call it coaching but it is teaching. You do not just tell them…you show them the reasons.”

And because we couldn’t just keep it to 6, here’s one more for the extra point:

  • “After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.” 

Be the Best You

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Michael Phelps has been quoted as saying, “I simply want to be the best Michael Phelps.”

While you may not be the most-decorated Olympic athlete of all time, you do have unique strengths and gifts. Ask yourself, “How can I be the best ME there is?”

Walk with the Dreamers

Words of Wisdom from a greeting card!

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Animated Leadership Lessons

Here’s a creative article filled with leadership lessons! Who knew there were so many hidden gems in some of our kids’ favorite animated movies?

The Beauty of Dreams

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“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  
– Eleanor Roosevelt

What are your dreams?  What solutions do you have to offer the world?  Believe that you can make a difference.    

Words of Wisdom from My Coffee Mug

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Words of Wisdom from My Coffee Mug

One of our favorite coffee mugs at Inta-Great! Some great words of wisdom.

Importance of Leading Oneself

Leadership is about influence, service, and transformation.  First, leadership does not come from positional authority; rather it is based on influence.  Second, it is the leader’s job to serve the people.  For as leadership-expert Larry Spears states, “True leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others and see them grow” (1998, p. 3).  Finally, successful leadership is about transformation—the transformation of individuals, organizations, and even broader culture.  It is in this transformation piece where professional development plays a key role.

Transforming culture requires transforming organizations and institutions, and transforming organizations and institutions requires transforming individuals.  Therefore, culture cannot be transformed without individuals being transformed.  As Peter Drucker (1999, p. 11) writes, “The need to manage oneself is therefore creating a revolution in human affairs.”  Essentially, one must effectively lead oneself before attempting to lead others.

Once one has taken the time to understand oneself: personality, learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, etc., one has the responsibility to understand that others are just as unique.  Then, instead of rejecting those differences, one is able to see them as complements.  It allows one to create and lead a team where others’ strengths balance one’s own weaknesses.  Or, in the words of strengths-expert Marcus Buckingham (2008), “A great team player volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time and deliberately partners with people who have different strengths.”

The important question then becomes, how does one lead oneself?  One important way one can learn to lead oneself is through professional development.  Some professional development tools we use at Inta-Great include: the DiSC Profile, The 360 DiSC, StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Strengths Based Leadership, The Truth About You, and a listening profile—among other things.  All of these assessments are meant to help individuals understand more about themselves and the way they think, feel, and act.  On top of these tools, identifying personal values, writing personal mission and/or vision statements, setting SMART goals for one’s life, and developing a relationship with a mentor are all great professional development exercises.  And more formally, professional courses/seminars and advanced education also constitute professional development.  And yet, professional development is not only confined to resources outside of oneself, for as Donald Schon (1983) is quick to point out, the reflective practitioner is a resource onto himself.

The reflective practitioner is one who engages in reflection-in-action as a means of professional development.  Reflection-in-action takes place when one thinks about what he or she is doing while he or she is doing it.  This allows one to conduct mini-experiments, apply theory to a situation, and, in real-time, evolve the theory until the desired results are achieved.  This reflection-in-action allows one to recognize the tacit understandings which have been guiding one’s actions, perhaps even hindering one’s effectiveness (Schon, 1983).  Schon (1983, p. 68) sums it up when he says, “When someone reflects-in-action, he becomes a researcher in the practice of context….[he] constructs a new theory of the unique case.”

Overall, professional development, through both external resources and internal reflection-in-action, is the foundation of self-leadership.  Then, self-leadership is the basis for personal transformation.  And finally, personal transformation is “the breath that sustains our ability to lead others” thereby transforming organizations and institutions, and ultimately culture (Manz, 2001, p. 16).

Resources:

  • Buckingham, M. (2008). The truth about you: Your secret to success. [Video]. (Available from Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN)
  • Drucker, P. (1999). Managing oneself. Harvard Business Review, 77(2), 64-74.
  • Manz, C. (2001). The leadership wisdom of Jesus. San Francisco: Brett-Koehler.
  • Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. NY: Basic Books.
  • Spears, L.C. (Ed.) (1998) Insight in leadership. New York: Wiley.