How do you know if you’re a courageous leader? - HR Future helps people prepare for the Future of Work and is South Africa's leading print, digital and online Human Resources magazine.

How do you know if you’re a courageous leader?

Over the past few years, I have been engaging with leaders at a very senior level to help them rise above their personal and professional agendas to greatness. It’s been a most enlightening experience.

Many of the perceptions I had of senior leaders have been blown out of the water. For instance, whereas I once thought that they were generally a courageous bunch, I found that this was not the case. While we were discussing greatness, they were all on fire, agreeing with everything and creating the impression that they were ready to start on their journey to greatness.

They would talk a big game but, when it came to the time for action – actually doing something about it – I would get what I call the “old school friend response” …

You know that old school friend you bump into many years after leaving school (the one you didn’t particularly like)? They say to you, “We must really get together for a drink some time.”

And you say, “Absolutely! We must.” But you have no intention of ever getting together with them and that’s as far as things go.

It was the “old school friend” response I would get from senior leaders. They would say, “Yes, this is great, this is the right thing to do. I want to do this.” But that was as far as things would go and, from there on out, they were very quiet.

That’s simply because they were actually not courageous people and felt they had too much to lose. Now that’s not a criticism of them. Not everybody is courageous. But some people THINK they’re courageous, yet they’re not.

Dictionary.com defines “courageous” as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”

One could expand this definition to include facing unpopularity, criticism and so forth. An important point to note is that courage is not only a quality of mind or spirit. It’s also about action – facing difficulty and other unpleasant things.

So, how do you know when you – or anyone else, for that matter – is courageous?

The answer lies not in what they think or say but in what they do. Courageous people often don’t talk big. They simply act big. And THAT is what determines who is courageous and who is not.

Why is courage so important in leaders? Leaders who are not prepared to take action against people who are causing hurt or damage, who are not prepared to take action against corrupt and/or deceitful employees, who are not prepared to take a moral stand against immoral decisions and/or behaviour (I’m not referring to immorality in sexual terms), are simply not courageous.

Courageous leaders will stand up for right and for the greater good even though it may make them unpopular. Courageous leaders will not flinch in the face of criticism by people who disapprove of their actions when those actions don’t suit the critics.

Courageous leaders will root out corruption and will not turn a blind eye to dishonesty and deceit. They will demonstrate compassion and care for the vulnerable and will act on behalf of those who cannot act for themselves.

That’s why courageous leaders will win the love and respect of those they lead because they will act with no bias or favouritism. They will act in the interests of all.

How courageous a leader are you? Do you talk a big game but, when it comes to action, keep very quiet? Or, do you do the right thing when it needs to be done?

Our country and our world need courageous leaders. Will you hear the call of destiny to be a courageous leader? Courage requires great strength of character. Only you know if you have that strength!

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

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