Friday, February 22, 2013

The Power of Managerial Courage


In every manager's life, there's a moment calling for strength beyond the routine.  There are times when managers, directors, leaders, VPs must simply stand firm.

I define Managerial Courage as the willingness to state unpopular truth which may cause personal risk.

The amount of courage required is proportional to the number of people who will be adversely affected by the truth, especially those who are of higher rank in an organization. 

When Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) said "You can't handle the truth!" he meant some realities are very hard for others to hear.  

What moments require this sort of courage?
  1. When a costly project is sorely off track and likely to get worse without intervention.
  2. When an employee has been put into an awkward circumstance by managers with much more power (I am not referring to harassment, I am referring to managers asking employees to make decisions that are well above their pay grade because managers don't want to make a decision).
  3. When no one else in the room will state what everyone knows to be the truth.

Some cautions:
  1. Raw honesty sometimes causes others to cringe and run for the exits.  I have seen people make harsh statements about a project without considering diplomacy and professionalism.  Even bad news needs to be delivered without drama.
  2. Know your stuff.  If you shoot your mouth off without facts, you'll be heading for the exits ... or at least some backwater job for a long time.
  3. Don't repeat Old News.  If you're just into grandstanding by repeating the obvious, you're not being courageous - - you're being stupid. 
What's in it for you?

  1. Not all, but many of the people I have worked for the past decades actually welcome truth.
  2. Respectful managerial Courage is admired by upper level executives - they live it every day or they're gone.
  3. Done properly, your courage will build your a reputation as someone who cares deeply about the success of your organization. 
In the words of Ringo Starr - "It don't come easy." 

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