There is a quality that every leader must possess, and that is courage…because leadership is hard. Honestly, it’s downright frightening at times.
Another reason leadership requires courage is because leadership is all about influence, and influence comes through courage. A leader is not the person who talks about what needs to be done or even understands what needs to be done. Instead, the person who takes intentional action to change a situation ultimately earns the right to be the leader. Courage is what creates the influence. The person who goes first will inspire others to move and follow.
4 Reasons Courage is Necessary For Every Leader:
1. There will always be resistance.
Good leaders are focused on the future and are continuously making changes in order to make progress. They are obsessed with taking new ground and making things better. This type of forward movement will inevitably create resistance. There are two kinds of resistance: Internal and external. Internal resistance is emotional. It is the insecurity and uncertainty a leader feels about his/her abilities. Internal resistance looks like a fear of failure. It can also look like self-doubt or a simple lack of confidence. Internal issues are often the major cause of hesitation, and they will prevent leaders from acting boldly.
Secondly, there is external resistance. This can come in the form of problems and people. Problems can come in the form of a shortage of resources, lack of healthy systems, poor communication, or a toxic culture. The resistance from people is often the most difficult to face and deal with. There will always be a percentage of people who are slow adopters or late adopters. These folks do not want to go where you want to go with the organization, so they resist.
2. There will always be a level of uncertainty.
Taking new ground and moving things forward always includes high levels of uncertainty. Leadership is about going places that you have never been before. There are so many unknowns and so many questions without answers, and this uncertainty creates fear. Then, in turn, the fear that has been created causes us to stagnate or become paralyzed.
Good leaders will try to get as much clarity as possible; however, they know that 100% clarity is not possible. So, they muster the courage to act when they get 70-80% clarity. They understand that at some point, they must act even with a level of uncertainty and, therefore, an element of risk. Max Depree said, “An unwillingness to accept risk has swamped more leaders than anything I can think of.”
3. There will always be distractions.
As a leader, you face countless distractions on a daily basis. New problems, current events, and new opportunities bombard every leader. You must rise above these distractions and learn to stay focused on the objective that you have set for your team. Andy Stanley said, “The ability to identify and focus on the few necessary things is the hallmark of great leadership. It’s as much about elimination as it is addition. Don’t allow the many good opportunities to divert your attention from the one opportunity that has the greatest potential to make the biggest difference. Learn to say no.”
Two things that I have had to work on in order to stay focused is learning to disappoint people and overcoming my fear of missing out. We say yes because we have a fear of letting people down and also because we think the opportunity won’t come back around. You must learn how to manage these two emotions if you wish to overcome distractions.
4. There will always be a need to face reality.
If you are like me, you want things to work out for your organization. As leaders, we want things to be consistently moving forward, and if they are not progressing, we feel like we are losing or failing. This desire to see progress often leads leaders to avoid acknowledging what is really going on. We want things to work out so badly that we are willing to put a positive spin on things and not face reality.
This tendency is dangerous because if you don’t see things as they are, you are not in a position to fix them. If you deny the problems long enough, the problems can lead to the ultimate collapse of your organization.
As a leader, you must be on a relentless pursuit to discover the truth. Jim Collins clarified the job of a leader this way, “When you turn over rocks and look at all the squiggly things underneath, you can either put the rock down or you can say my job is to turn over rocks and deal with what you see even if it scares the hell out of you.”
If we fail to act, we will never know what might have been. We will never see the change we envision without courage.