We define leadership as the ability to motivate oneself and others to take positive action toward a goal. Note that we start with motivating yourself. If you are having trouble motivating yourself, chances are very good that you aren’t motivating much of anyone else either – at least not in a positive and engaging way! Anytime that you tackle something challenging, something new, attempt to change yourself or your habits, it takes leadership to face the unknown, the difficult, the possibility that you will fail – and go forward anyway. Leadership, by its definition, is creating a change for the better. To do so takes boldness, courage, persistance, faith – fearlessness.
As we work with clients helping them build fearless organizations, one of the key elements we focus on with individual senior leaders and their teams is developing fearless leadership at every level in the organization. Each person, with a big title or not, motivates themselves, behaves in accordance to their own attitudes, and influences everyone they touch. Fearless leaders influence others to become more fearless, more open to change, grow and adapt.
The hallmarks of fearless leadership are a focus on growth, forward momentum and action. It is fearlessness that allows leaders to embrace failure, learn from it, and try again, rather than being paralyzed by uncertainty, afraid of making a bad decision, or unwilling to admit mistakes and learn from them.
Fearless leaders are vulnerable, able to embrace their own failures, weaknesses and imperfections without using them as excuses. People like to follow other humans, not flawless icons, so admitting weakness actually attracts others and makes them feel kinship with the leader, and even greater loyalty.
You are either in the process of growing, or dying. If you are not actively learning and growing as a person, and as an organization, you have entered the cycle of decline. Fearless leaders instinctively seek out growth opportunities and learning for themselves, their people, and their organizations. Neither dissatisfied or content, fearless leaders know that there is always more to learn, new ways to develop and improve, and a higher level of performance just around each corner – sometimes just after the next failure. Fearless leaders develop people, see their strengths and challenge them to fulfill their potential.
Fearless leaders are not arrogant, but see themselves as in service to others, to the mission of the organization, and to its many stakeholders. “We” is the dominant pronoun in organizations that embrace fearless leadership, and collaboration is how things get done.
Many of the organizations we work with know how to develop effective managers, and even have great leaders in their ranks, but have difficulty developing great leaders, or sometimes even defining what leadership means exactly. By making leaders more conscious of their impact on themselves and others and providing a framework and tools to develop fearless leadership attitudes, skills and behaviors, organizations can build a fearless leadership culture, language and attitude – critical to long-term sustainable success.