There is a trope that is used in storytelling about the leader who has to make the tough call. The one that means that he or she will die or send good people to die so the greater good will win the day. The strong leader willing to lose it all to make certain the right thing happens. It’s a great vehicle for all sorts of dramatic—and tragic—outcomes, but it’s also a measure that all of us who aspire to be leaders must be willing to accept. Sometimes we will be forced to make the tough call, the hard choice that might hurt in the short term, but will mean success in the end.
Granted, few of us will be facing death or injury in these situations, but we might have to fire a friend whose actions couldn’t be defended or layoff good people so the company can keep running for other people to stay working. It’s the traits in this Forbes article—Things Every Courageous Leader Knows—that if you’re going to step up can take on the mantel of “leader” you will have to accept as well.
Not for glory or pay cheques
When you read the real life stories of people who have done amazing things or people who have led companies to huge success, often the people hailed as the leaders shrug off their choices and actions. True leaders, I’ve found, are the people who saw what needed to be done and did it. It wasn’t a “choice” or rather they didn’t see it as a choice. Something needed to be done and they stepped in to do it. I don’t see great leaders doing what they did for greater glory or reward, they just lead. Sure, it’s more than a little complicated when you are talking about business success. With business success there is usually financial reward that comes with it. However, even the founders of WhatsApp (which Facebook just bought for a mind-blowing $19 billion) started off just to create a way to securely send messages to people. They didn’t start out to make billions of dollars. I’m sure they wanted to make money, but getting mind-blowingly rich would have been a pipe dream.
Business success does come with reward, but the best leaders aren’t doing anything for the quick buck or quick win, they do it because they have passion and desire to make something great. That often comes with personal sacrifice. Sacrifice and courage that the course they have set it right and while hard decisions might have to be made, they know they can make them, survive and succeed.
True leaders have the courage to know how and when they need to act, then act.