“We need braver leaders and more courageous cultures,” author of Dare to Lead, Brene Brown concludes. Brown has amassed an impressive data base of leadership interviews from various types and sizes of businesses. The key initial question she asked in her research was:
“What, if anything, about the way people are leading today needs to change in order for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly changing environment where we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation?”(p.6)
Brown distilled some behavioral and cultural changes that need to be addressed if leaders want to be better at leading now and in the future. In my 25 plus years of experience in working with leaders and organizations, I concur. Leading today requires courage. Here’s a summary of those that I’ve seen consistently in working with entrepreneurs, not for profits as well as large companies:
- Avoidance behavior when it comes to engaging in tough conversations. Many managers avoid giving direct feedback on performance and behavioral issues that don’t align with the culture. Putting this off is a big mistake.
- Trust is eroded by lack of empathy and connecting with others in relevant ways. High task orientation overrules high touch orientation in many organizations.
- The culture becomes risk adverse. People become hesitant when they are ignored or even ridiculed for expressing big ideas and innovations. The focus on being “perfect” outweighs taking the risk.
- Individuals and teams don’t sit long enough with problems and issues but jump to solutions since management wants them to “bring solutions” and is often intolerant to taking the time needed to get at the root cause.
- Organizational values are vague and don’t get specific about the behaviors that reflect the values. Since organizations don’t often drill down to observable and/or verifiable behaviors, too much is left to individual interpretation.
One of the hallmarks of effective leaders and teams is their ability to stay positive and also deal with what Jim Collins called “the brutal facts.” Are you guilty of any of the above blocks to being a courageous leader? Most importantly, what will you do differently once you are aware?