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In a previous blog, I challenged you to “extend Trust to others” as an intentional action instead of waiting for enough experiences and behaviors to accumulate to allow that person into your trust circle. Extending Trust requires Intentional Courage, and all too often that doesn’t happen since the risk of moving out of our comfort zone demands more than we are willing to commit. We gravitate to media accounts of people displaying extraordinary courage, often as a result of a catastrophic event or on the field of combat. These Reactive Courage behaviors enable that person to achieve what might have seemed to be improbable results, and we stand in awe.
In the business world, we gravitate to leaders that display confidence and self-assurance. My sense is that their success has resulted from a series of Intentional Courage actions, but these leaders are the exception to the rule. In a Gallup Management Journal study on Overcoming Barriers to Success, fear was the first barrier cited, and the one most difficult to overcome. We face fear when giving a presentation to a senior executive or key customer, informing a customer about a mistake or delay in schedule, or delegating an important task to a more junior person instead of doing it ourselves. In each instance, the action needs to happen, and approaching it with Intentional Courage instead of fear can create dramatic differences in outcomes for all parties.
Business leaders face tough decisions frequently. Most of the time, they face a decision between an easy but poor choice versus the difficult but good choice. Those who succeed and become better and more assured leaders are those who can reach deep down inside and consistently act on the hard but right decision. They display courage that is highly visible to the organization. Those behaviors in turn create an environment where courage is rewarded and pulls along others in the organization, creating an organizational competitive advantage.
We live in a business world where change is the norm. Yet needed change of direction can be inhibited by the fear of changing course from the comfort of the current. Strong leaders look forward, see where they need to go, make their plans, communicate with their teams and execute. Intentional Courage illustrated.
I’ve started to access specific actions I have taken during the week that demanded Intentional Courage instead of just going with the status quo. These daily and weekly scorecards create a set of metrics that guide me in what I must do to change outcomes, absorbing the risk of change to gain the benefit of greater success. Intentional Courage in business is a necessary behavior to achieve dramatic results, and can be good practice area for the larger and more demanding domain of Moral Courage that envelops all of the roles that we inhabit during our lifetime. I’ll conclude with an extract from Robert Kennedy’s 1966 address to the University of Capetown.
“Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change the world which yields most painfully to change.”
Through each of our intentional actions, we can change outcomes in our business, our personal lives, and possibility the world around us. It’s our choice to make. Make it with Intentional Courage.