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“Nations which went down fighting rose again, but those which surrendered tamely were finished” Winston Churchill

Imagine if Winston Churchill did not have the courage to stand firm in May 1940 and he joined Foreign Secretary Viscount Halifax to negotiate a peace settlement. Instead, he refused to surrender to Nazi Germany, inspired his country and changed the course of history. He took a stand for his principles and beliefs in spite of others wanting to take an easy way out.

Which type of leader are you? Which type of leader do you think your team wants to follow? Will your company emerge from the COVID-19 crises even stronger or has it surrendered tamely?

Over the years industries have changed with the impact of big box stores, corporate reorganizations, mergers, and changing consumer preferences and communication styles particularly in the younger generations. An economic downturn or an unfavorable state of the economy report can cause our anxiety levels to rise. In times of uncertainty, some leaders shrink their companies; they seem fearful and may find it difficult to make plans past the next payroll. They want to surrender similar to Foreign Secretary Halifax in May, 1940.

Other leaders are bold, confident and courageous at all times and during uncertainty they make decisions that keep their business moving forward and leading change to ensure there will be a future. They seem more like Churchill when he courageously held to his beliefs and inspired his nation.

It is in times of uncertainty and turmoil that your behavior speaks to the quality and impact of your leadership. A courageous leader inspires teams and customers and positions their companies as leaders in society. After all, bold decisions are needed to create global companies. Without courageous leadership, the employee’s commitment to the company mission and vision will wane. What are just some of the ways we can all become courageous leaders.

Recognize your Courage: Recognize that you must be a courageous leader because our business environment has been complex, fast changing, unpredictable and disruptive for quite some time. COVID-19 gives leaders an opportunity to show their courage – facing fear by working through it with persistence, having difficult conversations, getting back up every time you are knocked down, and overcoming obstacles every day. Courageous leaders don’t back down when things get tough. It is your courage that fosters trust and sets the example for others to follow when they would rather hide from the storm.

Confront Reality: Learn the true fact about the state of your team, your business, your customers, vendors and the external environment. Base leadership decisions on the facts and not stories or suppositions. Strong leadership begins with understanding what is wrong that needs to be changed and understanding what is right that needs to be encouraged. Courageous leaders follow their principles and make informed decisions even when facing criticism.

Seek out and Listen to Feedback: We don’t know what we don’t know; these are our blind spots. We all have them and they impact our decisions. An “MBWA” is an acronym for Management by Walking Around. This means getting out from behind our desks and data and talking to employees from entry level on up. Allow the conversations to be unstructured, spontaneous and informal. Most importantly, this is your time to listen and learn. Many leaders are insulated from the workforce and can learn much with their MBWA.

Communicate Openly. Encourage constructive, healthy feedback, debates and brainstorming. Have real conversations that move through challenges even if opinions are not popular. Share rather than hoard information. Open, truthful communication avoids those rumors that infiltrate the formal and informal communication channels. Everyone in your organization should know the truth, be able to speak the truth and be able to make decisions based upon the truth. Courageous leaders not only frequently communicate the facts and risks, but also encourage unity to communicating the goals and realistic hope for the future.

Make the Bold Decisions to Move Forward: The more unpredictable the environment, the greater the impulse to stay stuck in the analytical mode known as “analysis paralysis” thinking that more information and data is needed. This will keep you stuck in one place. Keep moving forward – maybe in slower increments. Act on your beliefs and on credible information. Say and do what needs to be said and done. Strong leaders realize they must become comfortable with change and chaos and lead through the turbulence by redirecting through sometimes small changes to achieve the ultimate goal.

Insist Upon Accountability: Be accountable and expect accountability from others. Everyone should perform and deliver on their commitments. How can you make that happen? When you hold yourself accountable, you model the behavior you expect from others.

Surround Yourself with The Best: By now we have all read the book Good to Great by James Collins and we have learned how important it is to have the right people in the right seats on the bus. This is easier said than done. Courageous leaders need a courageous, cohesive leadership team in order to execute the strategy courageously. Now is the time to evaluate the talent and contribution of everyone on your team as individuals and as members of the team. Is each member of your executive team making significant contributions as an individual, as a manager and as a member of a team?

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