Storms Summon Courage

December 3, 2009


When you learn about leadership in school, training programs, and in many leadership books you learn that courage is often one of the values that you are “supposed” to have as a leader.

Courage may be defined as states, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.” Or metaphorically as Faye Wattleton put it, “The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.”

I’ve sailed in the Atlantic during a storm, with 25-foot swells arching over my head (an experience I had courtesy of Outward Bound). It took courage, but no more than it does to hold a direct report responsible for their failings.

Let’s say you’re the president of a software company in Silcon Valley, talking to your COO. “What’s going on in our sales area?” you ask. The COO tells you, “I am a bit concerned, but I think we will be improving shortly.” He sticks with wishy washy words and avoids any real concrete terms or accountability.

Maybe the COO handles the problem. If so, great. If he doesn’t, however, then where are you? How many customers have been misinformed by the sales force since your last conversation with the COO? How many times in the future will the COO try to let wishy washy answers stand in for competent ones? How will you communicate the need to address failings immediately?

Storms summon courage. Courage is harder to summon when the conversation is pleasant and the skies clear.

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