Life throws you curve balls and many days you may feel off-kilter. And that may affect your self-confidence or make you tempted to hedge your bets and play it safe. Too much of that fear then casts a shadow on the rest of your team and can negatively spread like a virus. That’s why it’s essential to keep feeding your courage instead of feeding your fear. Fearful leaders are the worst leaders.
Leadership begins with a belief in yourself. Look, you’ve gotten this far in your pursuit of being a leader in your field; that’s already way better than so many people who are all talk and no action. Now you have to project that confidence outward, and watch how others gravitate toward your leadership and influence.
You might be more of an introvert (you replenish by being alone) than an extrovert (replenishing by being with people), and if so, great! Introverts make great leaders, too. But they also must push past any shyness or timidity or hesitation and go for it. Without risk, there is no adventure. You can’t be a great leader without boldness.
When I have observed leaders displaying courage, I have seen them standing up for their values and convictions while risking criticism, ridicule, censure, or some form of persecution. They have been willing to lose it all, on principle alone. They have taken the unpopular position because they believed at their core that it was the right thing to do. It’s like they have pride in their ambition and their cause, but without the arrogance that is off-putting. And I’ve watched the admiration of that person move up a few notches by their followers, whether the people agreed with their stance or not. They had guts.
You might not think of yourself as an “executive,” but let me tell you about something called “executive presence”. It’s like the aura that someone has when they walk into a room and command that room with what they say and how they behave that warrants respect. When Scott Elbin interviewed those in the CEO role or those closely working with those CEO’s, he found three common traits of executive presence: Interpersonal engagement, concise and clear speaking, and…you guessed it…confidence! Here are his practical tips (and my commentary) for developing that confidence. It’s like a muscle that you have to exercise.
- Know what you want to say. Think about it before you let it come out of your mouth to choose your words carefully. Use the journalism prompts: Who? What? When? Where? Why? And How?
- Make it about the organization and not about you. There should be no hint of whining or victim-like complaining. Who doesn’t want to follow someone who is trying to help the whole team?
- Have a clear point of view. Do your research and take the time to develop a position, not be blown by the wind and pleasing whoever is in front of you.
- Back up your point of view with facts and stories about the impact of the problem.
- Offer solutions that are easy to implement and likely to make a difference. Don’t ramble with your strategies. Be able to put your core solution on a Post-it note and articulate it simply.
You have to be patient even when everything inside of you wants to lurch forward with progress toward your goals. Dan Brian says, “Patience is really courage that’s meant to test your commitment to your cause….The best leaders understand when to abandon the cause and when to stay the course.” It’s like you vet each idea and plan that you have and decide whether it’s a cul-de-sac concept that would be a waste of time to continue pursuing, or if it’s part of your core vision that you must keep sloshing away at until you accomplish it.
So, embedded in that last paragraph is not just a belief in yourself, but belief in your vision. It’s that vision that is your True North to keep you on track and fighting for what you want to become reality.
Here’s another reason to be courageous in leadership. Your core team needs you to be bold—so that they can also be bolder than they are now. Courage encourages. It begets more courage. Loan your people confidence and watch them stand up straighter and make decisions more assertively. Watch them try new things, see things from different perspectives, and speak up in meetings like they haven’t ever before.
Do you know why else your team needs you to be bold? To weed out bad apples on your team. It takes courage to have the difficult conversation about someone’s poor attitude or unacceptable treatment of customers. Actually it’s a strength of kindness to tell the truth to someone and lay it all on the line so that they and the business can hopefully grow through it.
Quick words of caution. Be bold, but don’t be rude. To be strong is never equated with being a jerk. No one deserves to be treated that way. Let’s make our business so above-board with how we treat others that critics can’t point a finger at our immature behaviors. Also be bold, but not a bully. Bullies steamroll over their followers to get their own way. No, we are about being strong enough to receive the first arrow in the pursuit of serving others.
Very rarely do people say in their exit interviews or on their deathbeds, “I wish I would’ve been more fearful. I wish I would’ve stayed status quo. I wish I would’ve avoided more risks.” No, it’s normally the opposite. People say that they wish they would have been more courageous and adventurous, more intentional in their decision-making, and gone for the prize they had been dreaming about. I hope you will, too.
To use a football analogy, it’s fourth down and one yard to go, and you are still forty-five yards from the goal line. Do you punt away the opportunity to score a touchdown, or do you go for it? Effective leaders push through their fear and boldly keep moving forward toward the vision.
Have you picked up a copy of my book Leading the Team You’ve Always Wanted? Just 10 bucks, but packed full of 11 inspirational actions to build your dream team. Order today at https://www.paulcasey.org/product/leading-the-team-youve-always-wanted/