Why Courageous Leadership is Important

Why Courageous Leadership is Important

For those who wonder whether courageous leadership really is necessary, or whether it is worth the personal costs it often demands, here is an exercise that can help address those questions. It can be used in the workplace or in any setting, including the political arena, with small, medium, or large groups.

Step 1: Ask the group members to think of a specific individual who they have experienced as demonstrating a very HIGH level of courageous leadership – i.e., someone who focuses relentlessly on the good of the organization. (If they truly don’t know, or know of, anyone who fits this description, have them imagine what it would be like if they did have that experience.) Have them write down a few words or phrases to describe what it’s like to be around that person.

Step 2: After step 1 has been completed, and before participants talk with each other about their answers, ask them to think of a specific individual who they have experienced as demonstrating a very LOW level of courageous leadership – i.e., someone who focuses on his/her self-interest rather than on the good of the organization. (If they truly don’t know, or know of, anyone who fits this description, have them imagine what it would be like if they did have that experience.) Have them write down a few words or phrases to describe what it’s like to be around that person.

Step 3: Using a flip chart or white board, draw a vertical line down the middle to create two columns. On the left column, write “High level of courageous leadership” and on the right column, write “Low level of courageous leadership.”

Step 4: Ask participants to tell you what words or phrases they wrote down for the high level of courageous leadership. Write down each suggestion in the left column. You can have people call out their answers or go around the group as many times as it takes for everyone to contribute all their responses.

Step 5: Repeat step 4 using responses for the low level of courageous leadership; write the answers in the right column.

Step 6: After all the responses have been recorded, read them aloud – first the left column, then the right column. Then ask this question: “In which of these two environments would you rather work or live?”

As you might imagine, the above question really is rhetorical given the stark contrast between the descriptions in the two columns. Nonetheless, it enables people to really see and feel why courageous leadership is important. And it demonstrates the critical role that courageous leaders play on all levels – personal, organizational, and societal.

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.


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