Last week I had the chance to reconnect with a former colleague and friend to get caught up on life over a brilliant sushi buffet. Heading into the meal, little did I know that our soon to be conversation would forever change my perspective on leadership. For the purposes of this article we’ll refer to my friend as King Salad. (weird to say this but he’s got impeccably styled hair [aka salad], and if you’ve seen a picture of me you’ll know why I’m saying this as I’m a bit lacking in this department)
Eventually conversation with King Salad drifted into the inevitable “how’s work coming along this year so far”. King Salad’s first comment both surprised me and caught my attention as he said, “I’m focusing my energy in 2016 on ‘Managerial Courage’. Not to say that I wasn’t interested in the conversation prior, certainly not the case, but without knowing it he had just triggered something in me which made me ultra-alert and increasingly interested to learn more about his perspective of Managerial Courage.
As I sat on the edge of the booth listening to King Salad share with me why he was focusing on Managerial Courage a thought jolted my brain which hit me like a lightning bolt. King Salad never saw any of this but he was probably wondering why I was so enthusiastically engaged in the conversation, no longer even eating.
What was the lightning bolt that stopped me from eating my precious sushi? I realized something that I had never thought of before:
Managerial Courage is the linchpin, the cornerstone, the apex for all things related to leading successfully.
It was so clear in that moment! In the absence of Managerial Courage all other leadership qualities and characteristics suffer as without Managerial Courage we can only hope to be mediocre at best when it relates to leading and influencing others.
What is Managerial Courage anyways? Simply put – it’s doing the right things as a leader, especially during tough times. Seems simple, yet it’s devilishly difficult to act on consistently. A deeper look into Managerial Courage and we find that it can be further described as a set of actions and beliefs a leader possesses which define who they are and how they go about leading and inspiring others. These actions and beliefs include:
The more I thought about it the more I realized that all this time I’ve missed the bigger picture as it relates to successfully leading others. I even laughed at myself because the notion of Managerial Courage has been in front of me for years yet I had failed to connect the dots leading to my current awareness on the matter. I always knew to lead successfully you had to care about those you supported as well as come to grips with the fact that the decisions you make won’t always be the right ones. I knew leading was an art, not something to be achieved at a moment in time, but something to work towards continuously throughout an entire career as a student of the game.
What I didn’t realize until this past week was that the genesis of leadership, the very foundation that exceptional leadership stands on, comes from Managerial Courage. It takes great tenacity, strength, fortitude, mental determination and care to be a leader and do so successfully. You can’t fake leadership, you can’t say one thing then act another. People see right through that.
Sure, anyone can be a leader, but those who do it successfully stand head and shoulders above their counterparts. It’s worth mentioning that few people fall into the category of great leaders which is why the concept of Managerial Courage is so important.
Courage is the very essence of what leadership is all about.
I am beholden to my friend King Salad for the awareness he brought to me over our sushi meal, it was an invaluable learning opportunity one which I’m thrilled to share and pass on.
What does Managerial Courage mean to you?
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.