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Courage in Leadership

When Leadership Requires Courage

by Sarah Dayton

Are you truly leading your company, or are you just focused on hitting your numbers?

The world of a modern business leader is now dominated by a dashboard of performance metrics––stock price, revenue targets, gross margins, market share, not to mention social media clicks, likes, and shares.

Such close monitoring is designed to reassure stakeholders that you are in control as the captain of your respective ship. In reality, of course, your entire world can be overturned with the click of a mouse. Disruptive technology, a product recall, or a PR scandal can do tremendous harm to those carefully tracked metrics in a matter of minutes, and then it’s up to you and your leadership skills to respond.

When this out-of-the-blue event blindsides you––and it is a matter of when, not if––it will most likely be something that wasn’t covered in a college course or your first day of orientation. It will require you to step out of your comfort zone, put your indispensable metrics dashboard to one side, and get creative.

Bold, creative solutions require the courage to trust your skills and experience and your gut instinct to take calculated risks without concern for any potential reprisals for not following company policy or the exalted strategic plan. Courageous leaders care more about principles than criticism or hollow praise. They understand the responsibility of having their team look to them for guidance in a crisis. They take initiative and speak truth to power when it’s needed by drawing attention to difficult issues and providing constructive feedback regardless of whether or not they were asked.

Fortress of Solitude

However, before you rush off and start designing your Fortress of Solitude, remember that there is a place for courage in the mundane too. Delegating tasks and trusting your people to perform them as well as or even better than you, takes courage. Enabling constructive dissent and healthy debate also takes courage and the confidence that you do not need to have all the answers.

There’s no seven-step path to courageous leadership or psychological test to see if you have it. There are no mock crises or practice events for you to try out. What you can do is read about others who have demonstrated courageous leadership and learn from their decisions, actions, and mistakes. Otherwise, you’ll either have it on the day you need it, or you won’t.

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Soundview Editor-in-Chief Sarah Dayton

Sarah Dayton is the Editor-in-Chief at Soundview. When not in the office or at her desk at home, Sarah can be found on area walking trails or patronizing small, local businesses. She is also a board member of the local land trust. Sarah and her husband, Sam, are “empty nesters” and currently share their 1824 Chester County, PA farmhouse with two spoiled basset hounds.

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