We are all living in challenging times. Over the last few years, we have seen the very best and the very worst of us. What has become crystal clear is the power and importance of courageous leadership. Sadly, we have seen too little of it in politics, especially at a time when it is so needed, yet we have seen extraordinary examples in other parts of our lives; in public services like health and education and in dynamic, people focused organisations. One of the most common questions I get asked is what does great, courageous leadership look like. So here are eight attributes that I think define it.
Having the confidence to seek and receive honest feedback, to not be defensive and to be prepared to learn from what you hear.
Having the courage of your convictions... we all know that leadership is hard, at times lonely and seriously challenging. I have always said that people are ready for leadership when they are sure that they can hold on to their principles and values even in the toughest of times. They will always strive to do what they feel is right.
Being prepared to challenge what they do and how they do it. Too many organisations hang on to systems and approaches because its the way its always been. Sometimes leaders feel emotionally attached to them because they created them or because they feel they have mastered them. Change needs leadership and that means that courageous leaders need to be prepared to let go, to take risks and often be the first to try new things.
Failure is a hugely important part of learning, of developing and of innovating. Leaders must be the role models, they must be prepared to fail and then to learn, they must project a culture that sees failure as a vital part of the process of innovation and development.
Great leaders are role models and being able to admit mistakes and vulnerabilities shows a leader to be human, to be fallible. Being so makes a leader accessible, authentic and human. It means that people trust both the leader and the culture they create.
Courageous leaders promote diversity of thought, they don't surround themselves with people who blindly follow or simply agree. They understand that a little friction, debate and challenge are vital in developing cultures that promote innovation and change.
Being able to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations is crucial in order to promote healthy, open and trusting workplaces. Great leaders understand working through problems and potential conflicts allows a team to flourish.
Courageous leadership is sometimes about recognising and stepping out of and away from unproductive and unhelpful situations, they don't get sucked in to playing people off against each other or falling foul of cliques and gossip.
For a little more, check out my video: