I used to regularly get feedback indicating that “Bill doesn’t like conflict”. Well, I’m not sure many people really like conflict, but I do know that if you avoid situations because you don’t want to deal with conflict due to a lack of leadership courage it can result in other problems. In fact, Patrick Lencioni has written that the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems.
In the organization that I worked at as a leader for nearly 38 years, we often talked about leadership courage, especially in evaluating emerging leaders. But what do we mean by leadership courage?
John Maxwell has said that he has never known a successful leader who was not courageous. He states that courage is an essential quality for a leader. Samantha Pena has written that a courageous leader is someone who constantly asks themselves if they are being courageous enough, who are willing to make difficult decisions and do not back down when things get too hard.
Leaders who consistently demonstrate leadership courage model these 5 traits:
- Confront reality. Leaders need to be able to assess their environment effectively and then lead based on the current reality. They have to be able to adjust their thinking and approach based on current conditions.
- Change agent. Leaders who have leadership courage are comfortable driving change, are not afraid to challenge the status quo and take calculated risks. Susan Pearse writes “Without courage you can’t have the right conversations that lead to change. Without courage you won’t even get off the starting block as a leader.”
- Open and honest communication. Leaders must be able to deliver the difficult messages about change in their organization, even if they may personally disagree with them.
- Honest performance feedback. Not being honest about a team member’s performance appears to be kind, but it’s really not. Not being honest doesn’t do the team member nor the organization any favors. Giving a team member a better than deserved performance evaluation is not being fair to them, because eventually they will encounter a good leader who will be honest with them. Give them honest feedback that will help them to address any performance issues they may have.
- Go back. There are times when a leader must show leadership courage and go back on a decision they have made when it becomes obvious that the decision was wrong. This also takes humility, a trait of all great leaders.
These are just 5 traits of leaders who consistently demonstrate leadership courage. What would you add to the list?