Jun 102014

Do You Have the Courage to Stand Alone?

Developing our managerial courage is an important leadership quality. Leading isn’t always easy; it takes courage to lead people through challenging times. It can encompass making an objective decision and doing what is right under the circumstances. It is a quality we can’t always define, though it generally consists of our values, self-awareness, humility, confidence, objectivity, and the willingness to take risks.

Saying what needs to be said at the right time, to the right people, in the right manner takes courage. If the stakes are high, it can be uncomfortable. When we take tough positions and speak out we can stand alone. Standing alone requires self-confidence and a strong sense of self. Leaders often stand alone, which is riskier than following and requires a lot of internal security.

Leadership courage means we must face the truth and express it. Sometimes it means we have the courage to rely on others or to make decisions in risky or uncertain situations. Certainly it means being outside of our comfort zone and pushing our limits. As leaders we have to express courage every day, at every level of our organization. As a leader we are often expected to act with courage.

It doesn’t mean we are always right; we are wrong many times, but we learn to accept personal responsibility. When we speak up we often take the heat; others keep it to themselves. When we take the heat we build our heat shield. If we know we’re right, standing courageously is well worth the heat. If it turns out we are wrong, we should admit it and move on.

Taking a strong stand takes confidence. We can build that confidence by getting a good scope of the problem, talking to other people, and asking for advice. When we pick an option we should develop the rationale and stand tall until proven wrong. It is also important to consider the opposing view and prepare responses, always expecting pushback.

Keeping your cool is also important. If you have negative emotional reactions, others may think you have problems taking tough positions. Learn to identify negative reactions and control them. You can pause, breathe, or ask a question to buy time.
Leadership courage means searching for a better outcome, not destroying others. Even if you are totally right, empathizing with others is important, especially if emotions run high.

We should understand that we will be wrong many times. Most successful managers were promoted to leadership positions because they had the guts to stand alone, not because they were always right. Studies have shown that managers are right 65 percent of the time. Put those errors on your menu because a balanced diet has to have spinach. Don’t let the possibility of being wrong hold you back.

Push your envelope, take chances, and suggest bold new ideas. If you fail, treat it as a learning experience. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Balance your messages and don’t put everything in the negative. You may have to work with the same people again, so do something to show goodwill. Compliment them and help them achieve something so they too have some successes. Balancing the scales will pay dividends in the future.

Standing alone does not always mean going it alone.  It means trusting yourself and taking the risk to let yourself be seen, standing firm in your beliefs even when your internal voice challenges you.

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