Archive for the ‘ Accountability ’ Category
“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Courage is a well-admired human trait; but when asked what courage is, what do you think of?
Is it a soldier, fighting a battle far from home against a fierce, unknown enemy?
What about a fire-fighting hero running in to save someone from a burning building?
Perhaps your imagination stretches to a fictional hero, rushing in to save the day?
All of these are an example of physical courage – someone’s life is in imminent danger, and our courageous hero puts everything right again.
But forget about your cape-wearing, pants-on the-outside, lycra-clad hero. What about normal, average people? The British have a wonderful phrase for this: “The man on the Clapham Omnibus” – people going about their everyday business.
This could encompass individuals who blow the whistle on corporate corruption, at risk of losing their job; or – an example from one of my favourite books (Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”); a Lawyer, who stands up to defend someone who is innocent, even though society condemns them for doing so. Could these people be described as ‘courageous’?
In a word: yes!
The courage demonstrated by holding on to one’s own values – regardless of whether this is on the battlefield, or in the boardroom – is Moral Courage.
Lisa Dungate defines Moral Courage perfectly in her blog on Lions Whiskers, where she explains that: “Moral courage means doing the right thing, even at the risk of inconvenience, ridicule, punishment, loss of job or security or social status”.
Novelist, J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech for the Class of 2008 provides some moving examples. The video of her speech, from TED.com, is 21 minutes long; but at 12 minutes she gives an emotional recollection of her time working at Amnesty International, with people who risked their own lives to speak out about the persecution, abuse, and torture taking place in their home lands.
Everyday moral courage often isn’t this extreme, but that does not mean that it is any easier to practice: moral courage might mean being different or disagreeing publicly.
As difficult as it is – displaying moral courage can earn respect, trust, and admiralty; and by practicing moral courage very day it gradually will become easier.
Let’s take moral courage away from the corporate setting, for a moment; and consider practicing in every day situations:
You don’t need to be being rude; or enforcing your own opinions on others, to demonstrate moral courage.
But, as professionals, how can we use these skills to make values-driven decisions consistently?
The Ivey Business Journal gives examples of moral courage in leadership: In August 2008, when Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, stood in front of the press to accept responsibility for the contaminated meat scandal that resulted in numerous deaths, he undoubtedly needed courage. Southwest Airlines CEO, James Parker, would have needed courage when he went against the industry job-slashing trend following 9/11 when he courageously announced that he would keep all employees
Why is moral courage important in leadership?
Moral courage is crucial in developing authenticity – it empowers individuals to discover and demonstrate what they stand for – even if this is at the disapproval of others. By developing self leadership through action in moral dilemmas, professionals and leaders can ensure both integrity and impact.
Actions speak louder than words. Leaders at all levels need to act out their expectations, behave honestly and openly, and demonstrate loyalty. They need to establish and maintain open communications, so that those working with them know that their suggestions will be listened to – that they have a voice. People need to know that their leader isn’t going to act on a whim, just because it’s the majority decision. All of these qualities are facilitated by a leader who has courage.
Leaders with moral courage can be trusted by colleagues to do the right thing. It takes courage to tell the boss something that they do not necessarily want to hear; or to redirect an employee; or to make unpopular decisions.
An awareness of the importance of doing the right thing – which is not necessarily the popular thing – can help leaders demonstrate moral courage when they face ethical challenges in the workplace, and uphold ethical working environments and business standards.
We’re doing something a little different this week.
Instead of a written post, Gus Jaramillo and I collaborated on a video post as part of the Leadership Quote vlog series. Subscribe for future videos!
Take a look at the model below. What do you notice is the end state? Results. Results are always the end state in every organization. That’s all that anyone cares about. One famous organization has a mantra of “don’t tell me, show me.” It may sound callous, cold, or unnerving, but it all depends on the mindset that takes you there. And really what makes the good organizations great is they innately understand how the experiences and beliefs of the employee are the most instrumental part of creating results. In the same way that quality ingredients make a great dish, a wonderful experience can make impactful results.
So what’s the best way to impact your direct reports’ experiences? Your leadership style, of course. And by shaping their experiences, you are helping them form beliefs about those experiences (either being aligned or not aligned) which impact their actions and results.
It’s quite simple conceptually, but it’s often overlooked since people focus too often on just one part (particularly the results) and do not look at their leadership strategy as whole. What we often forget is foundation for those results. I’ve heard some say, “I want to hire someone with the “It” factor”, but there isn’t a psychological measurement in existence that accurately and reliably tests for that. A person successful in one role may fail miserably in the same role at another company. Instead, you have to consider the experiences and beliefs that person is bringing to the table and how well those will mix with the rest of the team.
And what is the culture of your team or department? Don’t think that’s an important question? Try to change it. It will be incredibly difficult and take significantly longer then you would ever imagine. This is because the culture is made up of, and held in place by, the experiences and beliefs held within your team or department. By providing the correct leadership styles, you can influence not just the results, but the organizational culture around you for the better.
Think strategically and act permanently.
Next time you head up a team or a project, understand what experiences and beliefs you are leaving for your team. You may be surprised at what results are yielded if you create a people-centered, result-oriented experience.