There are many ways we demonstrate courageous leadership and six standout categories that pave the way.

  1. Raise your standards by setting goals that stretch your imagination and abilities and create an environment of possibility.
  2. Do the right thing by standing up to behavior that violates your values and gut instincts. Forge trust when taking action isn’t popular or easy.
  3. Use respectful straight talk. Being respectful and direct are a winning combination. Favor plain talk over management-speak. Sensitively handle performance issues.
  4. Display vulnerability. Increase your trustworthiness by showing people you are human like them. Ask questions for understanding and clarity.
  5. Take a committed stand. If you believe in something that serves the organization and its people, it’s your job to share it no matter the short-term consequences. People follow leaders who believe in something.
  6. Become a role model for excellence. You are how you consistently show up to your people. Set the standard by living the values and leading accordingly. This changes hearts, minds, and cultures.

What gets in the way of demonstrating courageous leadership?

  1. Raise your standards. We allow others to define and argue for our limitations. We get caught up in thinking we aren’t enough for the moment. We convince ourselves that higher standards won’t be recognized by the boss, so why bother? We move past these limitations by setting standards for ourselves, not an audience. How do we want to lead, leave a legacy, and evaluate the person in the mirror? We must lead ourselves before we begin to influence others.
  2. Do the right thing. Sometimes, perceived peer pressure and target fixation move us down an expedient path rather than the best path. We don’t want to put our job at risk, not be seen as a team player, or get sideways with the team or the boss. Ultimately, these moments of truth define us a leaders and doing the right thing creates a culture that consistently attracts and retains the best people and customers.
  3. Use respectful straight talk. We sometimes defend our decision to remain silent by calling it “being nice,” or “being polite,” or deciding “it’s not a big deal.” If we value the relationship, having a respectful, direct discussion is the epitome of caring for another person, notably when the intention and impact are to help that individual be successful over time. The goal is not to shame or blame, it’s to support another’s learning, growth, and contribution to the team.
  4. Display vulnerability. Our personal risk analysis may deem the cost of sharing more openly greater than the benefits of doing so. The reality is that appropriate sharing, within reason and boundaries, demonstrates our trust in others which helps them trust us more. An easy way to demonstrate this in a meeting is to say, “I don’t know, but I will find out.” Others see this act as courageous, not foolhardy.
  5. Take a committed stand. We may be unsure of support from the team once we take our stand. Humans fear disconnection from their groups above most things and will do almost anything to avoid the pain of being ostracized, frozen out, and on their own.
  6. Become a role model for excellence. We may forget the fishbowl we are in where everybody watches our words and actions all of the time. We may not think people care what we think or how we approach a situation. Modesty may lead us to ask, who am I to be a role model for anyone?