Courageous Leadership

By Njeri Muchunu

In my previous article, I wrote about character in leadership. Today, I will add onto that statement and say that true leadership requires courageous character.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where everything is going completely wrong! The reason for everything going wrong is YOU. You overlooked, forgot or omitted to communicate certain truths and now, everything has gone belly-up. The consequences of you taking responsibility and owning up are so dire that it could mean you losing your job or someone else losing theirs; your respect, credibility – the list is endless. What do you do in such a situation?

Some “Goliath” is looming larger than God in your sight and taunting you into humiliation. All you see is how weak and pathetic you are, and how inadequate you feel in the face of the chaos. Owning up seems impossible, and the thought immobilizes you.

All of us experience this fear.

True courage is dangerous because the result is unknown. It requires hard choices. It is painful because it involves risk.

As a leader, you need courage. Staying on mission and remaining focussed takes courage. Making tough decisions no one will understand at the time takes courage. Doing what is right, every time, when those around you are trying to find an easy way out takes courage. Living your values on a moment-to-moment basis takes courage. Not allowing anyone or anything to change who you are even in those pressure moments takes courage.

Courage is sandwiched between being alert and standing firm, and being strong and loving. I like to say that courage is not the absence of fear but rather feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

_”Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go._”

Courage, on a personal and leadership level, demands critical choices being made and practiced repeatedly throughout one’s life:

1. Do not conform: For both young people and adults, the pressure to conform is relentless. Jesus refused to conform, instead healing on the Sabbath, talking to women, and confronting hypocrisy. A caution: Being different is not being obnoxious. It is not in-your-face confrontation flaunting how good you are. It is quietly and firmly living and making the right decisions.
2. Be resilient: If you persevere through difficult times you will grow in character and empathy.
3. Choose to do right: This is integrity. It shows up in the little things. It is not usually the Goliaths that sink people but rather the Bathsheba’s: a secret moral choice is made. Most of these choices are personal and private, but they spill over into the way we lead, our finances, families, lives and the way we care for people.
4. Practice vulnerability. Encourage those you lead to understand that silence on an emerging organizational problem is more harmful than is admitting failure, inadequacy, or incompetence. In an organization where admission of a problem or inadequacy or incompetence on the part of senior staff is not welcome, systemically damaging problems are hidden, or, if known, often ignored. These issues cause organizations to erode over time or to suddenly implode. Meltdowns in various sectors of the nation’s economy in the past 18 months illustrate this damage.

Following from above therefore, an effective leader must have the courage to see difficult situations through to the end and accept responsibility for the outcomes of decisions. Additionally, it is important that you offer a “brave” apology for your mistakes and or oversight. I encourage you to be honest throughout all seasons as this shall be the true test of your leadership.

When you are a leader, everyone under you will have successes and failures. You will need to be prepared to encourage and to celebrate, and at times to correct and exhort. But in every situation, the people who follow you need to know that you have their back just as much as they have yours, even (and sometimes most of all) when you are helping them recover from mistakes.
Do you have questions on how you can become a leader of courageous character?

The author is a leadership curator. Contact Njeri Muchunu