If I asked you to define courageous leadership what would you say? I've heard lots of definitions for leadership, like:
Leadership is influence
Leadership is defining reality
Leadership is results
But what does it mean to be a courageous leader? On a daily basis I don't view myself as a courageous leader. When I look in the rear view at most of my days as a leader I see days spent trying to influence people to action, identifying the reality for the current state of the mission, and trying to lead myself and others towards results.
So pretty much I'm describing a hamster wheel. Another leader put it this way:
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
But not to long ago I had a courageous leader type day. Something "new" did happen, that day I was encouraged to be courageous and it's all because of a Tweet.
You read that right. A Tweet was the difference maker in my day, it changed me from leader to courageous leader. Here is the Tweet:
I've always struggled asking for what I need. It feels like it's the opposite of leadership. But I was certainly missing some "defining realities" about myself.
1. I was struggling and needed help - Leadership will always come with seasons that are hard and as leaders we think we just have to push through. I wasn't going to ask for help. This doesn't make us courageous it makes us isolated.
2. I was having a hard time seeing what was true for me - What was true for me is that I was overwhelmed and miserable. I was fearful that no one would care enough to help. I was afraid I would admit I needed help and the ball would still be dropped and then I would have to look at zero results and feel like I was failing even more as a leader.
3. I wanted a fictional story - I wanted to be the hero. The hero rises to the occasion. The hero saves the day. The hero comes up with the idea that changes everything. But this isn't what makes a hero a hero even in the best fictional stories. The hero has courage, that's what makes a character a hero. And every hero has help: Frodo, Captain America, Harry Potter, etc...You name it the hero has help. I was moving myself further away from being a hero by trying to do everything myself.
4. I hate my own boundaries - Self-leadership will always be the biggest challenge. How many times had I said to myself, "I will not try to do everything by myself"? Or, "I'm okay with this plate dropping if no one else is willing to help to keep it spinning." But it never fails, the fictional hero rises up and again, that hero doesn't even exist in any story. So I step all over my boundaries with myself.
5. Support is a four letter word in leadership - Support is what I do, right? That's what leaders do, they support everyone else. We think things like, "I create the platform for other people jump off of to have success." "I plow the rows so seeds can be planted." Right? Surely only the weak who venture into a leadership role need support? Oh wait, I am weak in comparison to what needs to be done. The task is a team task, not a individual task. But I was sure trying to operate as if I could take it on myself and didn't need support, which was a lie I was telling myself.
I was reminded that being a courageous leader was not filled with courageous acts, instead it was filled with a courageous evaluation of myself. It wasn't easy to look deep inside myself and see I was drowning and it was my own hands holding my head underwater.
What about you this Thursday? Are you being a courageous leader? My encouragement to you today is to be brave. As our wonderful mentor Brene Brown reminded us, let's redefine what courageous leadership is all about today.