The best business leaders are courageous every day

If we want to be successful as leaders, we need to create an organizational climate where courage is celebrated

David FullerIt takes courage for some people to get out of bed each morning and face the day. For others, it’s courageous to go up and say hello to a new person in their class or in their office.

People who take risks to save lives, stand up for what’s right, face daily pain, jump out of airplanes with a sheet on their back and adventure in the outdoors could all be considered courageous.

But what does it mean to have courage in business?

Courage is defined by the Webster’s Dictionary as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.”

I know a fellow who left his job, not quite sure of how he was going to feed his family, to start up a business. Some of his co-workers might have called him foolhardy but he made it work.

Whether it actually it works out or not, starting a business, giving up other opportunities, risking your life savings and years of your life, and putting your reputation at stake, takes real courage!

Running or owning a business or an organization requires courage daily. As a CEO, it takes courage to try new technology, advertise differently, plan for the future in a challenging economy, trust employees to do their jobs, keep people accountable and implement systems that are going to make a difference.

As a commissioned sales employee, you’re essentially self-employed. Salespeople of any sort have to be some of the most courageous employees in your organization because it takes guts to pick up the phone each day and ask prospects for their business. It takes guts to trust that after hearing “No” 10, 15 or 20 times that someone is going to say “Yes.” It takes willpower to believe that when people say they don’t like the product or service you’re selling, that they’re not talking about you.

As employees, it takes courage to stand up to a boss and question the direction of the company, to call to task a co-worker who’s not pulling their weight or to ask for more training when you don’t feel you have the skills to do your job as it should be done. You also sometimes need a dose of courage to trust that the vision the company is moving toward will allow you to keep feeding your family.

Whether we’re in a startup or a long-standing business, if we want to be successful as leaders, we need to create an organizational climate where courage is celebrated.

If we’re running a company and an employee comes to us and challenges our vision for the business or the strategic direction, do we handle it from a defensive position or do we give the conversation serious consideration?

If an employee is destructive or dysfunctional, do we deal with it courageously or put it off because we feel spineless that day?

Every day, we make decisions in our business that encourage or discourage bravery – and those decisions have an effect on our outcomes.

Recently I heard of a business that had a revolving door of employees because of the dysfunction of general manager. Apparently, the owner was concerned they might have trouble finding a new GM and so didn’t consider what this toxic employee was costing the business in the long run. Avoiding the conflict wasn’t courageous.

Are there things you do that tell your employees that courage isn’t welcome in your firm?

It takes a lot of backbone to take your head out of the sand and identify the elephant in the room that nobody’s talking about.

It takes courage to work with the tools in your business to build a better future when it seems that the odds are stacked against you.

It’s easy to give up when times get tough but it’s more challenging to strategically think through the process and identify possible routes forward through difficult waters.

Courage is not something that should be taken lightly in business, and the ramifications of courageous thinking by business leaders, large and small, play an important role in the economics of our cities, regions and countries.

Let’s find ways to create environments where brave decisions and actions are celebrated, not vilified.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Comments on business at this time? Email dave@pivotleader.com

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