Real Leaders

Managerial Courage: Surviving in The Cruel World of Business

“As a leader, I take time to get to know myself better and act better! Align who I am with what I do, in accordance with my values. This is my challenge: to face and ride the waves – one after the other!”

For many years now, people have painted lack of managerial courage as the evil of the century. This lack of courage has touched new managers and experienced leaders alike. Managerial courage is defined as: “The level of determination of a manager to take a necessary direction, even when it causes dissatisfaction or disapproval.”

In delicate situations, a courageous manager stands out through his ability to defend an unpopular viewpoint and act accordingly, even when it might be easier to just stay silent for the sake of keeping the peace.

A lack of courage to resolve problematic situations is hugely costly, for organizational performance, profitability and also for the climate at work. Indeed, many organizational problems and conflicts emerge in organizations because of a “laissez-faire” attitude towards management.

So, do you feel that you lack managerial courage? Are you brave enough to admit it? Companies must continuously renew themselves to ensure their sustainability. Are you adequately prepared to support innovation and to get your employees to excel in their jobs? When trying to develop your managerial courage, the following might help:

Be alert to triggers

Do you activate the same type of courage you’d use to stop smoking as you would when making a difficult decision in your company? To act courageously, you need a trigger – the awareness of a naturally-felt motivation. Imagine that restructuring is required to ensure the profitability of a company. How will you find the courage to announce job cuts? Being on the lookout for a trigger and challenging yourself to will help you take action. Try making a list of the benefits to help rationalize your decision.

Lose the drama and relativize

Does fear paralyze you at work? Do you sometimes worry about not being up to the challenge? No matter what the problem – the announcement of a fundamental change or the establishment of an innovative project – de-dramatizing the situation is key to finding the energy to move forward. For example, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen? What can another manager do for me? Or, “In five years, will this situation still have the same importance? When the amount of work is so enormous that you feel paralyzed, it’s better to go one step at a time:

•    Arrange your schedule into half hours,

•    Break down the tasks and group them into subgroups,

•    Ask for help from those who can be delegated.

These actions will help you to put things into perspective and feel more in control of the situation. It will become easier to see a solution.

Manage your inner speech

Our brains sometimes try and trick us into inaction and not persevering. A big question: Do you know how to tell the difference between the “saboteur” and “collaborator” message in your brain? During a recent training run for a marathon, I became tired and needed to find the courage to continue. I received this message from my brain: “George, let’s stop. Remember, last year you injured your calves. Let’s rest and tomorrow you can train again.

I chose to ignore the message. I continued my run and didn’t hurt myself. I was able to differentiate a “saboteur” message from a “collaborator” message. I needed courage and my tired brain didn’t want to work together with my will. I instead chose to do my own thing, to activate my courage and continue. Guess what? The pride that followed was fantastic! There is a difference between “your collaborator” who gives you leads to better progress and “your inner saboteur” that finds excuses to give up. The same scenario can be replicated in the workplace. Sometimes the best solution is just to go for it.

Contribute to the corporate culture

As a manager, do you contribute to creating a climate where courage is valued? It may seem easy, but “taking chances” never is. The risk associated with courageous decision-making is sometimes difficult to calculate. Being courageous might be compared to becoming “skilled” out of our comfort zone. Like any quality, courage develops through experimentation. Some work environments will be more fertile in which to develop the courage to act. As a leader who considers yourself courageous, it’s up to you to create this environment. The four ways above may be easy to read, but implementing them requires time and perseverance. So don’t listen to your saboteur’s brain. Go for it!

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