Courageous leaders dare to go where others do not. They have the ability to forge new trails, face the unknown, and act decisively. It’s not that they don’t feel fear, but they are able to move past it, usually inspired by the potential to do something important for people. In today’s complex business world, most would argue that we need all the courageous leaders we can find right now.
That is unless you are the boss of a courageous leader and you are accountable for this leader’s results. Courageous leaders typically do not dwell on doubts about how things will turn out. That is what helps them be able to act so boldly. But the bosses job is to mitigate risk for the company and you aren’t sure your courageous leader even SEES risk.
Scariness factors: What if risks are under attended to or unmanaged and I end up looking responsible? What will top management think of my leadership when she is getting all the attention?
Or, what about working for a courageous leader and having to follow this leader into battle? Scary! Courageous leaders seek battles because they know that is where the action is to change, improve or start something. They can’t wage big battles alone so call in their team. If you are on this team, and the initiative you are working on is big, bold and different, it is guaranteed your comfort zones will be pushed and fear will rise up.
Scariness factors: Who will protect me if this project goes bad? What happens to my bonus or performance rating if I can’t do my part? Why do I feel like I am going to walk off a cliff?
Courageous leaders I work with face these scenarios routinely. The successful ones realize they evoke fear all around them and put strategies in place to manage this. Those who struggle forget to do this and often find themselves in trouble with upper management, dealing with under performing team members, alienating colleagues and numerous other derailers.
What are you doing to manage being so scary?
One of my highlights from 2009 was heading up Paragon Leadership’s Environment & Energy Epprentice Leadership Experience. A nice summary is posted on one of our non-profit partner’s web sites, the Michigan Municipal League.
One of the coaching strategies we utilized, often referred to as ‘action learning’ put a diverse team of energy professionals and students to work on a real world challenge. And while they worked through their ‘green’ challenge, I was their guide on the side, helping them to bring forth their best ability to influence and lead – individually and as a team.
The rigor was intense, therefore the learning opportunity was also. By not telling the team what to do, but helping them with coaching tactics such as: offering ideas, providing a structure for giving feedback to each other, stopping the action and giving them time and questions to be reflective, participants can decide for themselves the best way to approach leadership. Learning by doing is one of life’s best way’s of teaching. Most of us wouldn’t have learned how to ride a bike if not for this. I consider the role of a coach to be helping the new rider beside the bike until they have the feel of balance and can zoom off on their own.
In today’s fast paced world, there is a need more and more for people who can think and act quickly to get things done and bring people together to solve problems. By doing this for emerging leaders who are impacting our environment, it is truly rewarding, all the way around.
One of the features I intend to offer on this blog will be spotlighting executives I know who are transitioning into new roles – especially those which are very different from the one they just came from. These type of changes are challenging, the stakes are usually high, and the time to prove oneself has become increasingly short with our challenging business climate.
Coaching the extensive number of executives that I have in the past 15 years, I know there is no “right” way to ramp into a new role. Every situation offers unique challenges which each executive leader must sort out what will be best to do given the conditions they face. Hopefully, learning from the experience of those who are successfully assimilating into their role will inspire new ideas and strategies usable by many.
Starting us off, I would like to introduce you to one of my former clients, Mary Templeton who recently made a major career move to a brand new and tough-to-break-into energy industry. Mary wrote about this in an on-line publication called Metromode. Here is a brief excerpt:
Changing the way I live became a personal theme over the last year, after being downsized from an executive role with an automotive intelligence and marketing solutions company. I realized this was an opportunity to reevaluate what was truly important to me and make a shift where I felt my contribution was going to make a difference. I felt a strong pull to pursue something that would leave the world a better place than I found it. Altruistic? Absolutely. Unrealistic or improbable? I didn’t think so.
Mary tells about her journey since last fall becoming a sales executive in a wind energy consulting company which I think you will find inspiring. Check out her blog entry. Perhaps Mary will agree to be a guest author from time to time and tell us more about the strategies she is using to support her success and adapt to her new conditions. Wishing you much success in the year ahead Mary!