This is the 63rd #WITLW
“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”
– L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
If you are walking down the street and a person in front of you appears to accidentally drop an item of litter do you stop and tell them? Or do you just pick up the item and put it in the bin yourself.
What if someone has deliberately thrown the litter the floor? Do you challenge them?
On the DR-ED discussion group this week there was a discussion on courage. It was triggered by an article on from the Hasting’s Centre entitled “Must we be courageous“. A commentator suggested oppressive or bullying cultures in some ways promote resilient responses almost as if a negative environment is tolerated because it develops ‘courage’. This is a challenging theory which has an unnerving element of truth to it.
Dwelling on my own ‘courage’ I do not think I had labelled it as such but it is a quality I grapple with on a regular basis. Whether you are a consultant, manager, team leader, director or other position of responsibility you are required to set standards. Part of those standards you set visibly but non-verbally i.e. you arrive to or start meetings on time, you are organised and you meet deadlines.
But some standards you need to set by intervention. You challenge behaviours, you correct bad practice, you constructively highlight inconsistencies and errors. This requires courage. It requires courage because the implication of your intervention is that you would not have done that. You are creating a moral distance between you and the perpetrator. The best leaders will minimise this perception with the style and approach they use because no one should feel like a criminal. However the divide between right and wrong will need to be made otherwise it wouldn’t have been necessary to do anything.
It should also take courage because you will be eliciting an emotional response in the person you are addressing. As you become more experienced your skill at this improves however the moment you are not aware you maybe causing distress, turmoil, or even anger, you risk demonstrating the very behaviors you are trying to address. Bullies do not care about how their victims are feeling and poor leaders are more than happy to publicly highlight deficiencies in individuals.
Being courageous is hard. I think I am clever enough to deliver what is expected of me and I have a love for my job in abundance. But am I truly demonstrating professionalism unless I can say lack of courage never stops me intervening?
If I really believe something is wrong I am always prepared to say so?
What have you learnt this week? #WILTW