Although it can be tempting, particularly in times of change and turbulence, to keep our heads well below the parapet, outstanding leaders do the opposite.
They demonstrate they can be counted on when times are tough. They aren’t afraid to step up and be counted, to face into conflict, and to nail their colours to the mast of controversial or unpopular decisions. That’s because they know that leadership is about constantly looking for better ways. Continuous improvement can only happen when leaders challenge the process, question whether the way things are being done, and still make sense.
This is one of the reasons why it’s often “lonely at the top” and, for that matter, lonely anywhere else that outstanding leadership is being practiced. In order to take a stand, leaders need a strong sense of self and lots of confidence in order paradoxically to feel comfortable taking risks, being wrong and making mistakes. In fact, research shows that successful leaders and managers have made more mistakes during their careers than the people they were promoted over. They were promoted for showing the courage and the strength of character to take a stand not because they were always right.
So don’t let the chance of being wrong get in the way of taking a stand when you feel it is the right thing to do.
My questions to you are:
- When have you taken an unpopular stand for something you believed in?
- When has your courage failed you and you have kept quiet?
- What made the difference?