This may be the Missing Link in your Ability to Lead Effectively

mocha moments

The Leadership Diamond®, created by Peter Koestenbaum, Ph.D., is a model of the leadership mind and a methodology for expanding leadership. The Diamond distinguishes four interdependent leadership imperatives, or “orientations”: Ethics, Vision, Courage and Reality. These orientations are your inner resources, always available to help you if you access them. The relationship among the four orientations determines the shape and size of the space within your Leadership Diamond®. The space within the Diamond is your leadership capacity, which is called “Greatness.”

Most leaders I’ve encountered have vision. They have a pretty good picture of where they want to go. They know where they are – they know where they would like to be. They know where the business is operating at present and they can envisage the changes they wish to see. Many seem to have a very firm grip on reality: what are the stakes at hand, the best tactics to employ to ensure day to day survival and how to navigate the bureaucratic playground so that they won’t step on those “toes” that matter. While many stories abound regarding unethical business practices (hey, the New York Times even allows you to write in to question whether acts are ethical or not to The Ethicist) Dr. Koestenbaum says that here, ethics refers to the importance of people and integrity. It means caring about people; being sensitive and of service to them; and behaving in accordance with moral principles. While the last entry regarding moral principles might not be immediately obvious, I would say that for the most part, business owners endeavour to operate ethically.

This brings me to the final bit in the diamond – courage – a terribly misunderstood word – and why I think it’s the missing link in our evolution on becoming more effective as leaders. When we think about acts of courage thoughts of racing into a burning building to save lives or rescuing a person from being robbed might quickly come to mind. We may also consider confronting a bully a la David and Goliath as a very courageous act.

Let’s consider the following:

  • You are required to have that much needed but extremely awkward conversation with an employee. How do you handle it?
  • You’re passed over for a promotion, AGAIN, even though you have the qualifications. Do you speak up?
  • Your boss often blows a fuse before finding out all the facts and comes to hasty decisions which are often not in the best interest of all involved. He asks you to “do the dirty work.” What do you do? Do you tell him you don’t agree with his decisions?
  • A sales executive has made an error in a proposal for a customer. Does he admit his mistake?
  • If I tell my boss we’ve understated our debt by a billion dollars, I lose my job. If I don’t tell my boss, I may go to jail. What a paradox…what should I do?

All of the situations require courage yet we don’t really see them as courageous acts. Most organizations undervalue the power of courage and its bottom line effect.

Sandra Walston, an expert on courage says “Most people do not identify and display courage as one of their primary leadership skills. They mistakenly believe that courage is only relevant during particularly risky times, such as downsizing. As a result, they don’t perceive exploring new ideas, confronting gossip, transitioning to a new career, transcending rejection or taking initiative as courageous leadership moments.”

Instead of being courageous we choose to let days go by before having the much needed conversation and when we DO have the conversation – it is ambiguous. Or we wait for years to have the conversation (I’m not kidding – I’ve witnessed this first hand) and when we finally share with the employee how we feel the employee is surprised. How come we didn’t say this before? We prefer to talk amongst ourselves about a particular supervisor’s behavior than speak directly to them because we just might get picked on or in the worst case – fired.

The time has come to show up as courageous leaders. Be courageous enough to HEAR what your staff is telling you. Don’t be quick to dismiss what they’re saying as foolishness. There may be something in there that you NEED to hear. Don’t confuse bravado with courage – showing a strong exterior when you have no clue regarding what to do and you think that the best way forward is to sound confident and direct the troops. Be courageous. Say you don’t know what to do and ask for help.

Janine Garner, Founder of the Little Black Dress Group shares the following courageous actions that you can take today whether you’re the janitor, the CEO or team leader:

  1. Question your own position and take on leadership. Constantly learn and pose new sets of challenges for yourself
  2. Be a change maker and improve the way things are done within the company, the sector, and within the industry.
  3. Reach out to fellow leaders and those who are willing to shape policy and procedure, and give one hundred percent to drive business forward in an ethical and productive way.

The ability to lead courageously by example is absolutely critical to success in today’s market where because of more choices, instant access and more connection, customers are becoming weary of those leaders who through fear or simple laziness are not willing to bring one hundred percent of their business selves to the table and do the things, that only WITH COURAGE, they can achieve.


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