QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear -- not absence of fear."-- Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)
THE GIVING OF COURAGE: THE FIRST DUTY OF THE CEO
in the courage of your people brings extraordinary, even unwarranted, corporate results. And, in monetary terms, it is free; it costs only the will to do it. And the remarkable thing is, you
don't need to have courage yourself to create it.
He was the Chief Executive. He had been so for several
years. Many thought he had done well, better than the other guy for sure. Others thought otherwise, but that is the lot of all CEOs -- not everyone will love them.
Certainly his personal life was showing shabby, and many
knew -- too many. He was finding it harder to muster support for things that needed doing. And there was talk of his retirement. "Lame duck " was mentioned, and successors
But on the day of crisis, in the time of trouble for his
people, by instinct or by wisdom or by inspiration, he fulfilled the first and foremost duty of a leader.
He gave courage.
He did so quietly. He did so simply. He did so without pretense or bluster or grand rhetoric. His means were mostly
silence, and just being there -- standing there -- before his people -- in witness.
He was their Chief Executive. He gave courage.
And not just to his own people but to the country, perhaps the world. In that moment he was leader to us all. And all acclaimed him. And all took courage and were stronger. And
with that courage could mobilize and focus and work again.
His name was Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani. Chief Executive of New York City.
He gave courage!
We don't talk much, we men and
women of business, of the needs we have for courage. It's not expected. It's not taught in B schools. We don't have the words. And it's embarrassing. After all, the absence of
courage is fear or at least anxiety.
But talk about it or not, we need courage. And our
people need it. In the final analysis courage is what drives our businesses. It gives us the power we need to go to work, to take risk, to create, to thrive. Without it we grow weak, and our people
grow uncertain. And we and they are fearful, and find it hard to decide, find it hard to invest in our own future, find it hard to communicate a vision of a prosperous future to clients so that
they can invest through us -- and that is selling.
I am not talking here of fierce, heroic courage needed in
the face of great danger; the New York fire fighters and police showed that -- in their lives, in their actions, in their deaths.
No, I am talking of a quieter kind of courage, an ordinary
kind. But the kind that let Giuliani stand silently, simply, there upon the devastation -- and represent us all and take symbolic responsibility for our future -- and become the focus of our fear,
our anger, confusion, shock -- and then transmute them into resolve.
Giuliani's was a quiet courage. A mundane courage; one
might almost say. The kind of courage that could be shown on almost all occasions. But one so rare, it seems, that when he showed it we were in awe of it -- and him.
And we took courage.
Most of us, perhaps all of
us, live our lives with feelings of uncertainty, of anxiety. It is part of the human condition. But our culture seems to cultivate it, too and our educational systems seem designed to magnify
But when we find a company where people exhibit courage,
quiet courage, the courage to listen and speak, to argue, decide and thrust ahead, we find a successful company. And we find the obverse too, for failing, unsuccessful companies seem to breed
timorous people. Or is it vice versa?
Courage breeds success. Success breeds courage.
But someone must begin the process of giving courage and then sustaining it. That is the duty of the leader. That is the first duty of the leader -- by whatever title or position, CEO, COO,
VP, manager, supervisor:
To give courage.
Giving courage is more, much
more, than giving "encouragement." Encouragement, once a word of substance, has come to mean very little: perhaps a kind of vanilla cheerleading; perhaps an exhortation to do better; perhaps a
kind of verbal incenting; or worse, sanction for failure.
En-Couragement means in its original sense, quite
simply: the giving of courage to others; the instilling of courage in others; the creation or evocation of courage within others. A profoundly simple thing. A profoundly important
thing. An incredibly rare thing, too.
But who must we give courage to?
First, of course,
to our people; they need it from us. Just as we need and must take courage from our leaders, so our people need it and must take it from us. And they can take it and multiply it if we
give it. And they expect it; whether they know it or not, or can articulate their need or not. And if they do not get it they will resent us for not providing it.
Secondly, we must give courage to our peers, those who work
with us, shoulder-to-shoulder and sometimes eyeball-to-eyeball. And to our clients. They work shoulder-to-shoulder with us, too.
And lastly, we must give it to our leaders. For
sometimes our leaders are afraid. Giuliani gave great courage to his leaders.
And how do we give courage?
It is no great
mystery. It needs no special knowledge or cleverness or training. Just think of the best bosses you ever had and ask what did they do?
What was it that Giuliani did? What did the mayor of
NY City do that imparted so much courage to us all? In simple terms, there were just seven things -- but all were acts of faith and generosity:
First, he was there. He stood there to be seen, to be counted. That was the most important act of all.
Second, he assumed the burden of responsibility, however guiltless he must be.
Third, he bore witness. He acknowledged the enormity of the injury and the challenge.
Fourth, he showed emotion. Showed by voice and words and tears that he cared, that he felt.
Fifth, he gave rich praise to those who labored.
Sixth, he voiced certainty of success.
Lastly, he spoke to his people as a people, as a single
entity, recognizing their oneness and evoking their unity.
Most of us, thank God, will never face so great a challenge.
But day-by-day, hour-by-hour, as managers, we have a need, a duty, to give courage to our people, so that they may grow in strength and hope and energy. And we can do it just as Giuliani did:
First, we can be there. For us, in our ordinary work,
it means getting out and being where the challenges of our businesses are: in the plants with our workers; on the counters with our staff; before our clients with our sales staff -- wherever the
challenges and our people are.
Second, we can take on the burden of responsibility.
Even if it is the responsibility of someone else, taking responsibility is a defining act of leadership.
Third, we can bear witness. We can acknowledge the
size and scope of the difficulties and the problems and the challenges to be overcome. And though they may be just the usual ones, they deserve to be acknowledged, too.
Fourth, we can show emotion. Genuine, real
emotion. Of happiness, sadness, friendship, confidence, worry, too -- human emotion. Business is driven not by cold logic but by human motivation. And that is triggered only through the
heart. And if we are not demonstrative by nature, and many of us are not, then such little emotion as we can show will be seen as being all that we can do -- and appreciated all the more.
Charisma is not really needed.
Fifth, we can give praise to those who labor. Honest
praise, generous praise, public praise, even though the work not be dangerous, the results not be remarkable. For work done day-by-day and every day is in itself heroic, and deserves praise, while
the praised still live and can be heartened.
Sixth, we can voice certainty of success. The need our
people have for reassurance is at least as great as ours. And, let's admit it, ours is great.
Lastly, we can speak to our people as a unit, as belonging
to a single entity (not just one-on-one, though that is important, too) and evoking that unity, recognizing the oneness of the group and its common cause.
Rarely in our lives are we as managers required to show
great physical courage. But, day-by-day, as managers, as chief executives of our companies, whatever their size, whatever their position within larger organizations, we have the duty to show the
mundane kind of courage, the kind that Giuliani showed.
The kind that is unpretentious, that is open, honest and
without shame. The kind that says, "Here I stand, God help me; I take responsibility; and I need help; and sacrifice."
The kind that says, "There is a future; there is hope; we will win."
By Tom Fitzgerald at email@example.com or http://managementconsultants.com.
COACHING CALL TO ACTION
THE GIVING OF COURAGE: THE FIRST DUTY OF THE CEO
As a leader in your company, give courage this week.
Watch the courage you give ripple throughout the company.