Archive for the ‘ Behavior ’ 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.
I was reading the obituary of the late and great Sir Christopher Lee this past week (The Times, Friday 12 June), who had a 70 year career on screen and made more than 300 films. One of his best known roles was Dracula, a role which he played 10 times.
In doing so I was reminded of a Freakonomics podcast called ‘what can vampires teach us about economics’ (October 2014), a light-hearted, yet oddly fascinating look at how we can turn relationships with vampires and the undead into advantages in society.
In memory of the iconic role of Dracula I thought it only my duty to ponder the link between vampires, and the ‘undead’as a whole, and what they can teach us about leadership.
Everyone fears a vampire
You may not be sucking people’s blood in a literal sense, but you may be sucking the life out of your co-workers each day. Treating your colleagues with a lack of respect or using a top-down leadership approach could lower morale and erode trust.
Promote open conversations and build relationships – put those fangs away!
Be a visual leader
Vampires are well known for having no reflection and living ‘in the shadows’.
Make yourself a visual leader, whether via webcam or being in the office regularly. People like to chat face-to-face and you may be working hard, but from my experience a lack of ‘visual presence’ can make others question what you are achieving and distance you from the highs and lows of office life day-to-day.
It’s amazing what you overhear or the conversations you can have when you are in the same room as your colleagues.
Need blood? Let’s chat about it and find a solution
Listen to your team’s needs and wants.
The Freakonomics podcast touched on the subject of the desire for blood – a possible solution is to stop the killing of innocent victims by selling vampires blood. Providing them with the one thing they need; if they don’t get it from you, they will certainly find it elsewhere.
Your team may not want blood, but they do have needs and wants that need satisfying. Understand your team and what each individual values. It may surprise you, not everyone is motivated by money. They may want career progression or a new challenge.
Satisfying you team’s needs will make the team and organisation more successful, it will reduce staff turnover and prevent bad habits from affecting the business (i.e. boredom and therefore shirking from tasks…or attacks to the neck!).
Vampires are the epitome of power dressing
Vampires dress to impress, the chances are they will get a job over the zombies and werewolves of this world. We may not deliberately judge rotting skin and hairy feet, but they are hard to ignore.
Dressing well also boosts your confidence – so shave those feet and grab your suit!
Werewolves work as a team and vampires work solo: try both and the art of delegation
There are times when we are more productive working alone, there are also times when team work or delegating tasks are a better option. I hear so many people say ‘I could get it the job done so much quicker myself, so I didn’t delegate’.
Think about the best use of your time and that this may be a great development opportunity for someone else. You are doing them a favour by providing a new challenge, teaching them a new skill and believing in their abilities. You are also doing yourself a favour by honouring your own time.
The ‘unknown’ causes panic
The fear of things unknown can cause mass hysteria, widespread gossip and for people to draw their own conclusions. Are you creating your own zombie apocalypse by not communicating effectively during times of change, addressing individual’s concerns and being transparent? There needs to be trust and communication is the key.
I am going to end this lighter look at leadership with something Sir Christopher Lee said, ‘I decided to make Dracula more believable and sympathetic’ (The Times, 12 June 2015) – it sounds like Dracula would make a great leader after all!
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!