What’s More Important – Accountability, Self-Confidence or Courage?

The last of our 4-part series on the pillars of leadership – the characteristics of the Elegant Leader that drive Voltage. It’s time for Courage on the responsibility side of the scale where accountability, self-confidence and courage reside. Elegant Leaders understand we must have rhythm between our egos, our relationships and our organization’s results. The success required to have impact and influence within the organization is largely based upon our behaviors, habits and the perceptions of others towards us as the leader. Voltage is about demonstrating respect and responibility behaviors. Empathy, humility, mastery and transparency define the respect side of the  scale of leadership character. These are black-and-white elements and the Elegant Leader’s own character development and these behaviors allow us to demonstrate these three key steps:

  1. We are comfortable in the grey,

  2. We are clear concise and compelling in their messaging, and

  3. We understand the value of high influence relationships to deliver high impact results

Great leaders are courageous! They can also be lonely and disconnected. It’s not about charisma or boldy charging ahead. I know many business leaders around world who silently move through the hallways. Regardless of an introverted or extroverted persona, the personality traits are no indicator of how successful or not a leader will be. As a leader, it’s very difficult to stand up day-after-day for what you believe in against the pressures and stress of the job. Outside and inside pressures, deadlines and even what seems like insurmountable odds face our business leaders daily. It’s a very lonely and thankless role, and the risks are real.

Fear, on the other hand, is not real – it’s an emotion. Danger is real. Fear is not. Your emotions will tell you to feel bad when you fail. Failure is necessary; that doesn’t mean YOU’re a failure! We all make mistakes; we all fail at something at some point. Changing how we think of failure is key. Failure creates opportunity — the more we fail, the quicker we learn, and the more of a chance we have the next time to do something the correct way. Without failure, we wouldn’t enjoy our successes as much. Failure gets us one step closer to achieving our goals.

Read Part 1 – Transparency of the Elegant Leader here

Famous researcher and phenomenal storyteller, Brene Brown has spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability and empathy. She says, “the depth of our courage is based upon the level of our willingness to be vulnerable. Courage is contagious. Everytime we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.”  As we put our armor of courage on, we know we may become successful. Many of us have been indoctrinated to believe since childhood we don’t deserve to be successful. If we are successful, what new responsibilities and obligations will that bring? Maybe we’re afraid of the attention we will receive by achieving success. For these reasons and others, many of us shy away from taking any risks.

Some think it takes internal fortitude and guts vs external feelings to be courageous and lead effectively. Feelings will fail you every time. When people belive in us, care about us, have our backs and are there to encourage and believe in us – that’s courage. In the military, they demonstrate courage every hour of every day. They risk their lives  for our freedom, and their answer to the question, “why?” is always, because they would have done it for me. Their courage comes from the knowledge that someone else has their backs. The only easy day was yesterday! Leaders with courage show proof in us – the sacrifice in us was worth it.

Elegant Leaders will go against the grain. There will always be people who will question your actions and lead you to doubt yourself. Sometimes it’s because of jealousy, but it’s more because of their own fears. I encourage you to pay attention to see if what’s being said  is valid.  If so, consider their points, but never allow self-doubt to creep into your mind and sabotage your opportunity – go with your gut.

Read Part 2 – Empathy of the Elegant Leader here

When leaders demonstarate courage, we are inspired by their courage! Only when we act together will we have the courage to change our situation and impact the world. The home of the US Navy SEALs in Coronado, CA has a concrete-asphalt area where BUD/S students do their calisthentics called the Grinder. BUD/S officers and enlisted are engaged in class together. It’s common when an officer quits several enlisted will immediately quit, as if saying, “well if he can’t make it, then surely I can’t either.” Those with the biggest egos, the star athlete, the all-american boy back home rarely make it.

For years, the Navy has been trying to find the physical, mental and emotional makeup of the type to be successful through BUD/S. They still can’t, and those who are on the edge of quitting but don’t have similar characteristics. Even though they’re not the biggest, smartest, most capable it’s the ones who will never quit against all odds are who make it. The instructors use every means fair and unfair to trip them up. What characteristic has come from all the classes, the failures and the graduates? There’s an intensely powerful camaraderie and an intensely powerful trust that’s formed amoung the boat crews and the candidates as they near graduation. This is why peer-to-peer support is so vital in life and in leadership.

The peer-to-peer support, tight bonds, work in building great organziations and great entrepreneurships together is so powerful. Because the courage to press on even when the odds of success are slim is what gets everyone through the stress and the pressures of the moment. There are plenty of naysayers who continually reinforce the negative narrative, yet the courageous leader, the Elegant Leader finds a way through their stubborn determination and sheer will to prove them wrong. The struggle is real, and the street-fight is contentious. It’s very true, whatever doesnt kill us makes us stronger. And, there is no blueprint, no roadmap to courage.

As entrepreneurs, we understand  we have the highest high’s and lowest of low’s, becuase there’s no safety net – no weekly dole from an employer. The feast to famine existence early on in birthing to growing our company is real. There’s no blind courage. It’s having the understanding to know the bottom is just a temporal place prior to bouncing back up. The more you do it, the more you feel it, the more comfortable you are being uncomfortable and the more you’re able to adapt and overcome. Being an Elegant Leader is not too dissimilar from being a military warrior – just without the element of scorched earth. We must adapt, overcome and improvise everyday. We have a plan – always. Execution of the plan will encounter many things we didn’t expect in reality – always!

Read Part 3  – Accountability of the Elegant Leader here

Being an Elegant Leader is a learned skill. While some of us have inherent natural leadership qualities or abilities involving courage, we can build the muscle and build your confidence and keep building upon the failures and successes. Courage gives us the ability to  deal with push-pull and pain, the resilience and security with the insecurity. There’s a reason the Hail Mary pass isn’t caught every time.

It takes courage to be an inspiration, and it’s not about you nor me. It’s the higher purpose that energizes our people to want to do it and to want to do more. I can’t force you to be inspired. Even though my mission is to inspire people to inspire people to inspire their organization, I can’t push it on you. If it is, then that’s ego talking. It’s always about them! In the Indiana Jones movie, the Search for the Holy Grail, there was a line from one of the guards of the Cruiciform Sword. While at the jetty, he asked Dr. Jones, “why do you seek the cup of Christ? Is it for your glory, or for His?” I’ll ask you, why do you want to live in courage and become an Elegant Leader with Voltage? Regardless, whether you come along on this journey or not, it may be the impetus you needed to be your best self anyway. In that, there’s victory for us both!

You cannot be the fixer for other people.  You have to set the model, comunicate the model with grace, and in time they may follow. They may not.  They have to learn how you have their back before they have yours. You have to shout from the rooftops with your actions and less with your words that you have their back. We all want it now, but nothing works on your timeline. My grandfather use to say, “corn’s gonna’ grow when it’s damn good and ready son. I can’t make it rain. I can plant it. I can tend to it. I can prepare it, but in the end I can’t grow it.”

It takes great courage to pay attention to what your people need and less on what you need.  It’s not about you. It’s the example you set. There’s many more eyes on you, than yours on them. Remember that! Not everyone will want to lead let alone be an Elegant Leader. Just like not everyone wants to be a parent let alone a good parent.

Many of us have children and for some not necessarily did they want children. It doesn’t mean because we have children we’re going to be good parents, nor should all of us be parents. Children don’t come with a manual and if they did it’s likely it would be useless, because they don’t act like they’re explained in a manual. In time, we learn they’re all different and how we navigate those differences, how we celebrate the uniqueness in each child is what helps them grow into great kids, great teenagers, great young adults and great examples of your parentage, your leadership.

Elegant Leadership has been redefined. It’s embracing your people as if they’re your own children. Give them love, attention, care and devotion. How do you think they will respond or know you truly care and demonstrate those values and beliefs everyday if you don’t show them first? There’s nothing they wouldn’t do for you, because of your consistent habits. Just like in life, we have to discipline them too – kids and employees.

They are no different than your family, some grow faster, some learn quicker, some are analytical some act on gut instinct and so on. Leading Elegantly with Voltage – with Courage is not an, “I teach, you learn” scenario.  It’s a rhythm to know and to develop each other in our own unique way. Notice I didn’t say you develop. We’re learning from each other based on our behaviors, perceptions and habits.

Having courage is accepting our own vulnerability. It’s risking humiliation, risking getting fired which is another discussion altogether. Who wants to live in a world where there’s no mistakes? How much did you learn from success? Having authority and rank is not leadership. Leadership is the self sacrifice, the vulnerability demonstrated and our express ability to lead. When you’re willing to admit you don’t know everything, the moment you admit you don’t have all the answers is when the people begin to follow.

In every relationship I’ve had that has ever failed, there’s been one constant – me.

When we fear failure we withdraw. It takes courage to overcome. You will need a support structure who love, care for you and will support you. They will have your back; this is what gives us the courage to press on. We are inspired by our people to have the courage to step up and lead.

In poorly run organizations, there’s rampant gossip, negativity, politics, silos and protecting turf. In these employee run organizations where the leader and leaders are weak and ineffective, the inmates run the asylum and trust and respect are realtively non-existent. In well run organizations, there’s joy and fulfillment, a sense of pride and empowerment, fluid communication and a culture of having each other’s back led by effective Elegant Leaders regardless of personality type, regardless of comunication style and regardless of pedigree. They believe what they believe and model the behaviors and habits of what success truly is.

What is true success? It’s the rhythm of a tempered ego, an environment of healthy relationships and an environment where the team of people are prepared to do their best every day. The results or outcomes are expected, because the leader prepared the team so well they’re  prepared to attain the expected outcome. It’s not a win-lose game. Let’s compete together, not against each other. Let go of the outdated stuff which doesn’t work anymore. The 80’s were over thirty years ago – quit managing with that model. Stop with the “rank and yank.” Be competitive to your market not against each other.

It’s not a kinder, gentler world anymore; we’re in a world of global tension. The concepts of the 80’s and 90’s are dead. It’s why today there are over 50% of the Fortune 500 companies from 2002 don’t exist anymore?  Would Bill Belichick puts the needs of the fan over the needs of his players? Would you put the needs of society over the needs of your children?  Why are we behaving this way at work anymore?

That model is why there’s little trust, there’s building of walls and lack of vulnerability and increased self-interest and covering our ass and so on. That’s why the Elegant Leader mission is to return to a selfless, high trust, highly respected environment where safety exists and an environment where it’s okay to fail so other’s can learn, adapt and overcome. The other piece is how to have courage as a follower as well.

The best leaders are the best followers. They are servants. Ask any of them. Go Google the Top 100 leaders and read their profiles, backgrounds and what their company believes and you’ll find the underlying theme of service. They’re devoted to a higher calling, a higher purpose. They, as individuals, have an impactful WHY, and their organizations represent a higher purpose than just building and the selling of widgets. They make contributions to society making our lives better, because of them and because of their leadership. It’s simple, practical, graceful and powerful. It’s Elegant. They are Elegant Leaders with Voltage who live and lead with Courage.

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