Courage;The Missing Link in Today’s Leaders
There have been many discussions about the most important trait needed for good or great leadership. Some will argue, and rightfully so, honor, integrity, trustworthiness, approachability, and the list goes on. These are all very important traits which everyone should display, not just leaders. Many leaders have these traits; however, many lose the courage to exhibit these positive traits under certain conditions. When a person finally gets that position they have longed for they sometimes see things are not the way they thought. They are challenged with unethical behavior from their supervisors, deceitful actions by decision makers, and overall cowardice in action or lack of action. This is where the dilemma starts. What do they do? If they speak out knowing that the very people they are challenging are the decision makers and the issue, they jeopardize their career. If they don’t speak out, they become the issue themselves.
This is where the character trait of courage comes in to play. What good is it to have honor, integrity, trustworthiness, competence, a controlled ego, and a sound ethical compass if the leaders of today do not have the courage to displays these traits? The good and great leaders have the courage to trust their people, the courage to keep their ego in check, the courage to listen to issues brought forth by their people and the courage to hold everyone to the same level of accountability.
“The real disease of many executives, CEOs in particular, is narcissism” (Dearlove, 2003, par. 6)
Narcissism is a very popular and destructive trait found in many of today’s leaders. It takes courage to keep one’s own needs and narcissistic tendencies in check. The courage to give the credit where it is due rather than hold it for one’s self simply because they are in a position of power seems to be a stumbling block for today’s leaders. The truly great leaders know that their number one priority is to ensure their people have the tools they need to be successful. Their number one priority is not to measure their needs first and then make a decision, but to measure the needs of the organization and its members before making a decision.
Far too often, today’s leadership becomes enraptured with their power over people. They end up intimidating their followers “So they don’t create what you’d call a climate of healthy disrespect for the boss” (Freed, 2006, par. 5). It takes tremendous courage for a leader to stand up in front of the masses and allow them the opportunity to truly vent. Too often, all employee meetings are called and the meeting spends most of the time on discussing changes, lofty goals and the all too common speech about the need to make sacrifices in order for the organization to continue. Who is the one who normally makes the biggest sacrifice? The employee tends to have to make the biggest sacrifice. At the very end of the meeting, the leadership will give an hour at most for the discussion of issues and concerns as seen by the employees. This is not nearly enough time and causes the leadership to cut off questions in order to get to as many people as they can. There needs to be an opportunity for employees to vent, it is a human need. According to Listening Matters (2008), leaders need to have the courage to listen to their followers (Dimensions of courageous followership, para. 2).
Do you have what it takes (the courage to listen to your people) to be a leader?