Given the highly competitive environment that is often fostered in companies, the complexity of this world and the level of innovation and swiftness of action required for success, a manager’s courage is a most essential competency.
Showing managerial courage means saying things as they truly are, at the right time, to the right person, in the right way. That may seem easy in theory, but if we take some time to think about it more deeply, we can quickly see that there is more to it than that! Courage is essential to succeed in management and, most importantly, in leadership!
Here are a few signs (or clues) that a manger would benefit from further developing their managerial courage.
1- They Do Not Take a Firm Stance
A lack of managerial courage can cause significant damage in terms of productivity and team performance. In addition, leaders who suffer from a chronic lack of managerial courage end up losing their credibility and the respect their employees have for them. It is quite rational: who could admire a superior who is passive and fearful, who tries to stay in their comfort zone and who keeps avoiding difficult decisions?
Managing means being able to generate movement instead of simply following the momentum, as well as making hard decisions when that is needed. The captain of the ship cannot try to avoid tensions, crises or confrontations.
Why is that essential? Because being ambiguous is counter-productive!
When a manager’s position is not clear, inevitably, there will be half-baked actions from employees and, hence, a loss of efficiency which can potentially be translated into a lack of motivation.
What are the qualities of a great manager? Unfortunately, there is no single all-encompassing answer to this question. It all depends on numerous factors; like the type of company concerned, the strategy, goal, context, stakes, team, management…
Let’s look at an example: an employee asks their manager whether they should go left or right. Without a clear-cut answer, the employee will be faced with 3 choices: staying motionless and awaiting further instructions, going left or going right. Not moving or going in the wrong direction translates into a loss of efficiency and means risking frustration and mistakes.
Another demonstration of this concept: today the manager says go left, but tomorrow they say the opposite. In that context, the employee is losing time, efficiency and motivation – and the manager loses credibility. If the manager has 30 employees under them, the impact is multiplied by 30! My, oh my…!
2- They Do Not Face Their Problems
The manager has to face problems and look truth in the eye since avoidance means loss of time. And watch out for collateral!
A manager who delays tackling an ethics issue can lose a client or an employee and may have to deal with complaints. Waiting too long before solving a problem usually just generates more problems.
Managerial courage means looking at reality as it is, sharing it and facing it, with the manager’s team by their side. Not all truths are worth sharing and wanting to hide our problems is only human. However, reality must not be denied because as a result, employees will put their efforts in the wrong places and their work will have all been useless.
What a loss of time – and, most importantly, credibility!
3- They Avoids Conflict
Conflicts must be address as soon as possible because, just like other problems, they can cause significant collateral damage and be counter-productive.
A manager who takes too much time in addressing a conflict, or who avoids it from fear of being involved in a controversy, does not optimize their results short term and because of that, could have to deal with collateral damage that is much more significant. It is true that sometimes, allowing some time to pass serves to calm the conflicts down by themselves, but is passivity really the best default approach? Obviously, NO!
And, of course, a manager, as the name implies, must know how to manage conflicts in the most optimal way.
For managers, having managerial courage means being able to face problems head-on, knowing who to surround themselves with, making difficult decisions and taking responsibility for them. The very essence of managerial bravery can be summed up by a few competencies: Knowing how to lead Being responsible Knowing how to surround oneself with the right people Showing vulnerability Being autonomous Being able to face reality Do you have those competencies?
4- They Hesitate to Settle Their Personnel’s Conflicts
A manager who shows managerial courage must know how to address situations as they are, how to show the team the direction to follow and how to settle conflicts. A rotten apple can cause damage in any team, and the more they stall without a decision being reached, the more productivity is lost and the higher the risk of collateral damage. Hesitation comes at a price.
In today’s word, companies that hesitate are quickly outwitted by those that charge ahead; businesses therefore have a substantial need for action-oriented managers. Those who hesitate usually do so by perfectionism, procrastination or fear of risk, which only delays the necessary actions.
5- They Do Not Know How to Announce a Difficult Decision
Of course, it is much easier to manage employees in sunny skies than in a storm. That being said, a true leader who shows managerial courage knows that they have the duty to announce the bad news, how to navigate troubled waters and how to make the necessary decisions, even if they are difficult. They must have the skill to deal with pressure, but they must also have the courage to rapidly take calculated risks.
Indeed, it is just as important to know how to announce the bad news in a diplomatic way and in a constructive and appropriate fashion according to context, always showing good judgment.
6- They Do Not Dare Say What Needs to Be Said
We all witness a variety of incidents that need to be addressed: something goes wrong, a mistake is covered up, someone did not do their job, a lack of professional ethics has been noticed, a lie was told, etc. Some decide to confront these situations while others prefer silence and avoidance.
Having courage also means giving comprehensive feedback to those concerned while phrasing it in a manner that is both constructive and positive. Be wary though… because there is such a thing as an excess of managerial courage. Too much is like too little! Is your manager too direct and too critical? Too severe or too negative? Do they exaggerate the bad sides? It’s all about dosage and good sense.
Understanding one’s management style can give you insight on how they will make decisions, communicate with employees and handle various situations. There are different personality dimensions linked to each style (some more evident than others) which I’m sure you’ve witnessed first hand. But the question remains…What management style is the best?
Saying things as they are also means accepting one’s own vulnerability as a manager. Having enough courage to be vulnerable, being brave enough to be who you are and to be held accountable, even when you are wrong – that is the key to an inspiring leadership style.
The manager who always knows everything, who never takes a wrong turn, who has an answer to absolutely everything and who cannot be shaken by any type of event is not only a myth, but also an ideal to which nobody should strive. We are all inspired by genuine people who have the courage to admit that they are flawed, who are able to ask for help and, hence, to see things as they really are.
So, did you recognize many of the preceding characteristics in your manager? That simply means that they would strongly benefit from increasing their managerial courage! Why do they lack it, you ask? There can be many different causes, such as seeking to avoid conflict, having a low tolerance to pressure, having a hard time expressing themselves, harbouring a fear of being wrong or of losing, being too emotional or simply disliking getting their noses in others’ business.
In that context, it is most essential to understand their personality and management style, to discover the underlying causes in order to know what areas need additional work.
Courage is being aware of your limits and knowing how to rise above them. Are you ready to begin?