"In the age-old contest between popularity and principle, only those willing to lose for their convictions are deserving of posterity's approval."
-- Gerald R. Ford
Today's leaders constantly face tough situations and need to make difficult decisions. When facing these situations, effective leaders demonstrate principled leadership, personal courage and decisiveness.
Effective leaders know what they stand for and follow their own values and ethics. They are willing to endure difficulty, take risks and make themselves uncomfortable in order to lead with these guiding principles. People who work with these leaders typically respect them for their willingness to stand up for what they believe is important.
Courageous leaders confront problems and deal with issues, rather than ignore them. They do not look for problems or strive to be "tough," but are firm and decisive when necessary. They are willing to confront others, but are respectful, even with those with whom they disagree. In short, they lead from their values.
Here are some suggestions on how you can determine and act on your values, and lead with courage and respect:
* Clarify your values. First, ask yourself the following questions: What is most important to me? What do I value most? What is worth fighting for or standing up for? Knowing the answers to these questions will strengthen your convictions.
Secondly, think about the legacy you want to leave your team and your organization. What things or qualities do you want to be remembered for?
Finally, develop a written leadership creed that captures the essence of your values and what true leadership means to you.
* Align your goals and values. When what you want, your goals, are in conflict with what you think is important to you, your values, the result is a feeling of emptiness when those goals are achieved. Satisfaction and effectiveness cannot be achieved when your goals and values are out of alignment. That's why it is essential to continually ask yourself: Is what I am trying to achieve something I truly value? Am I experiencing any conflict between my goals and my values?
* Be a principled leader. Once you know what you want and what you stand for, then you need to behave in ways consistent with your creed.
When facing difficult dilemmas or decisions, examine them in the light of your goals, deeply held convictions and values. This will give you direction. Demonstrate the courage to do what you feel is right despite personal risk or discomfort. The willingness to take courageous stands for the sake of principles will earn you respect, admiration and success.
* Act decisively. When important individual or team issues come to your attention, it is critical to respond quickly and decisively.
Addressing problems promptly keeps them from growing and conveys the message to your team that you are willing to tackle tough issues.
Taking a stand and pushing to resolve important issues requires clear communication, a strong emphasis on paying attention to and working with others, persistence, and the courage of your convictions.
* Address prejudices. Prejudgments cause people to see others and interpret their behavior through a framework that does not allow them to get to know the individual.
As a leader, you have the opportunity and responsibility to take the lead in defining what behavior is acceptable in the workplace. Your actions to discourage and refuse to accept racist, sexist, ethnocentric and other insensitive comments and behaviors that attack the self-respect of others will strongly influence the culture of your group or organization.
* Challenge others. As your people grow in capabilities and responsibilities, they encounter situations in which they, too, must make difficult decisions. Sometimes they turn to their manager to make these decisions for them. Help your employees develop confidence in their ability to make tough decisions by lending your expertise but stopping short of deciding for them.
By coaching your people to take responsibility, you are building their skills and helping them to rely on you less.
Create a clear vision of the kind of leader you want to be and then live it. Courageous leaders make decisions and act in ways consistent with their principles. View yourself as a courageous leader, believe that you have the power to make a difference and accept the responsibility of trying. Knowing what is right and then doing it ... that is courage.
Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from Northern Utah. He can be reached at email@example.com.