Goose bump worthy acts of leadership
January 24, 2018 by Sara Redman
As we welcome 2018 I’ve been reflecting on our clients over the years, recalling some of the inspirational leaders we have had the pleasure of working with. As profound acts of leadership from across the years flowed through my mind three in particular stood out to me. Reflecting on them still gives me goose bumps, so I wanted to share them with you. In the spirit of confidentiality, I have refrained from using names in the examples I’ve chosen to share and altered some details to maintain confidentiality of the leaders mentioned.
What defines a ‘goose bump’ worthy act of leadership?
For me, a goose bump worthy act of leadership is one grounded in; courage, vulnerability and making a tough call for the greater good.
Courage is a core component of good character, and good character is central to effective and inspirational leadership, as is reflected in SRA’s Leadership Model. Personally, I’m inspired by leaders who demonstrate courage, as those in the following examples have done.
A seasoned CEO who was bold in her pursuit of continual development was engaged in a leadership development program with SRA at the time of this particular act of courage.
With a natural style tending towards privacy and minimal personal disclosure, I recall that this CEO had, over time, been misunderstood as distant, uncaring and disconnected – something she was aware of. She acknowledged that this was a less than ideal springboard for any form of inspirational leadership and deliberated over how to turn this around. Her decision was to make herself vulnerable during a purposeful meeting with her entire team by speaking to both the success and mistakes of her role as CEO and openly sharing the learnings she had drawn from her experiences to date. She revealed herself warts and all in order to help staff better understand her style, acknowledging how it may be outwardly perceived and what her deeper intentions actually were behind her quirks and style of leadership.
It wasn’t easy for her to flex from her naturally withheld style in this way. I distinctly remember her being nervous and in the lead up, voicing (on occasion) that she didn’t feel she could do it. The fear of exposing herself was real – she’s human after all. Ultimately she drew on her courage and the intent driving her decision to act – that she wanted to better connect with her people and be an inspirational leader.
Sharing so openly and courageously had an extraordinary impact on the staff as individuals. Some hadn’t been big fans of her style and approach, but for the first time they were able to understand from her perspective. Staff were reset in their ability to assume positive intent in her actions and ways. The feedback was profound and staff were well and truly inspired. The shift created in the organisation was almost tangible. A vulnerable and courageous goose bump worthy act of leadership indeed.
This particular act of leadership gave me goose bumps by the sheer selflessness shown. Knowing there was a significant Change Program on the horizon this leader deliberated a major decision, one many wouldn’t even consider, let alone act upon. This leader chose to resign from his executive role to ensure that the organisation had the right leader taking them forward into the new season of change that was on the horizon.
He courageously asked himself the tough questions, looked at the facts and humbly put his own agenda to the side as he deeply considered the future needs of the organisation. He certainly did a lot of soul searching before making the call.
His selfless leadership decision was courageous. After formalising his decision to resign, he then worked towards creating solid plans to make sure the organisation found the right CEO for the next chapter of change. The good news? They did end up finding a leader who was an ideal fit for the culture they were trying to create. His selflessness paved the way for the organisation to succeed, and that gives me goose bumps!
On several occasions, while facilitating the ‘5 Behaviours of a Cohesive Team’ program with executive groups, we have seen examples of leaders mustering up the courage to actually put the elephant in the room on the table.
What do I mean by the elephant in the room? It could be that the executive leaders aren’t valuing people enough which is creating a misalignment in the organisation’s culture, or it could be a compliance process that’s having a significantly negative impact on staff morale and effectiveness, whilst not supporting the customer outcomes. It has once even been an entire department that needs to be challenged in regards to a focus on internal management rather than customer delivery. When the elephant in the room is called out by a courageous leader, the opportunity for change begins.
This is goose bump worthy every time I see it happen, because to do this, you have to make yourself vulnerable and expose yourself by putting a controversial topic on the table that, although difficult, is important for the organisation to consider.
I find it particularly inspiring when someone who has a natural tendency to be more quiet and withdrawn cuts through that to put the controversial topic on the table. In the context of a “5 Behaviours” session, it surprises people and changes the whole dynamic of the group as well as the success of the business, because the tough issue can then be dealt with.
Don’t underestimate the power of courage as a leader
The power of courage as a leader should never be under estimated. From one courageous act forward, a new precedent of vulnerability, selflessness and boldness can be set for a team and in some cases, an entire organisation.
How can you be a courageous leader?
Regardless of your role or seniority in your organisation, take a moment to consider the opportunities available to you to be courageous. Be aware and willing to act courageously. This is where growth and inspirational leadership lives.