I deal with supervisors, mid-level personnel and executives from small and large businesses throughout the world. Many of these companies are multi-national and global business entities. I try to understand how these people lead their organizations, as this helps me better understand how I can help them. While I am sure you learned all about the various types of leaders in Business School 101, you may not know about the small percentage of leaders that I like to call, ‘courageous leaders’.
First, let’s all agree that leadership cannot be bestowed upon an individual by position or title. While others may disagree, leadership is not something easily taught. Yes, you can instill the precepts of leadership in a classroom, but real leadership is more often born, not taught. True leaders have the innate ability to motivate others for the common good of the organization. They recognize problems before they emerge and take steps to change course accordingly. They are sure of themselves and in their ability to lead. They are confident in their subordinates and colleagues, and this confidence is contagious.
However, a very small percentage of leaders can be further identified by their courage. What is courageous leadership? I define it as the ability to make the correct decision regardless of the consequences. This may sound simple in principle, but it is not so easily executed in the real world.
How many times in recent years have we read about a product that has been found to be deficient or unsafe, yet the company making or selling the product continues to do so, rather than admit the problem? Ultimately, it costs these companies millions or even billions of dollars of irreparable harm to their brand. Could courageous leadership have made a difference?
How many times have decisions been made by leaders because they were merely expedient or politically correct? I cannot count the times I have witnessed this first-hand, and I am sure you can as well. What is even more dangerous, are the decisions that were not made because leaders were afraid to act.
Change is difficult and stressful, both personally and organizationally. However, courageous leaders look to change as a positive force within their organization. Do we really need the products and services we are buying? Are they the best product for the cost? Are we buying them from the same vendors we have always used because we are afraid to make a change?
Courageous leaders are truly wonderful clients. They are not afraid to listen to others and are willing to seek input and diversity on an opinion. These are the leaders who seek outside expertise as a means to strengthen their organization. Courageous leaders do not blame others or let subordinates ‘take the fall’. They are introspective and are willing to empower and challenge their colleagues and subordinates because they are not afraid of others’ success. They recognize that when one person succeeds, the entire organization succeeds.
Whenever I have a client who is looking for a third party to review their internal programs, process or procedures, seeking to change their vendor, or how to deliver their product or services, I know they are being led, at some level, by a courageous leader. It takes courage to invite an outsider into your organization to conduct a risk assessment. Not everybody is willing to do a benchmarking review of their company’s processes. Inviting a third party to conduct a security assessment of your security program is not for the feint-of-heart. Suggesting that your team examine other vendors and products requires a break from traditional views; it takes confidence and courage.
Are you the courageous leader in your organization?