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Courageous Leadership

You have to be fearless if you want employees to rally behind you and your business.
April 26, 2010

Nobody wants to work for a wimp. If the boss is always anxious and uncertain, more prone to wringing his or her hands than taking decisive action, what message does that send to employees?

Poor leadership can be a sign to employees that they're on a sinking ship or--for those workers whose mission in life is to do as little as possible--that they can get away with pretty much anything because the boss doesn't have the guts to fire them.

Admittedly, these are extreme examples. The point is, leading a company--especially in a challenging business climate--requires real courage. It takes grit. And your employees won't rally behind you unless they see that you've got it.

What Is Courageous Leadership?
Courage means different things in different situations. For small-business owners operating in today's tough environment, courage can be defined in the following ways:

Forging Ahead
The recession has forced many entrepreneurs to draw on hidden reservoirs of courage. But it has left others shaken and less confident. They curled up in a ball and let the storm pass overhead. If it worked as a survival tactic, that's okay. But now it's time to get up, dust off, and get back to work.

You can't grow your business without taking risk. Think back to your early days. Obviously, you weren't afraid of risk back then, or you wouldn't have gone into business in the first place.

What was different back then? Chances are, you had less to lose, and that includes your employees. Stop focusing on what you have to lose and think of what you have to gain. Try channeling some of your early entrepreneurial spirit.

I'm not suggesting you put on an act; employees can spot a boss who is faking it from a mile away. I'm saying that if you've been operating in a reactive mode, it's time to become more proactive.

Start by taking baby steps. Delegate some new projects to employees. Take some small, fairly safe risks. If there are business problems you've been avoiding, deal with them. Create some momentum.

In business and in life, courage is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.

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