Virtues of Leadership

Aristotle wisely said that courage is the first virtue that makes all other virtues possible. This is especially true in leadership, where good strategies take courage to implement. Even if the strategy itself is not particularly bold or revolutionary, there are inevitable junctures in the implementation process that are bound to test your mettle. Leaders must have the courage to stand strong in these moments―to be decisive and choose a direction without fear of the blame that will come with the wrong course of action.

Extraordinary leaders demonstrate courage in the face of adversity. For the courageous leader adversity is a welcome test. Like a blacksmith’s molding of a red-hot iron, adversity is a trial by fire that refines leaders and sharpens their game. Adversity emboldens courageous leaders and leaves them more committed to their strategic direction. Courageous leaders turn the negatives of adversity into positives as they move forward with a greater sense of purpose.Leaders that excel in executing their vision tend to be very skilled at planning. Planning is essential - it ensures your strategy is well thought-out and can be implemented successfully. Yet, careful planning is often overlooked because it’s a grind.

Your plans are designed to support your broader strategy. As you dive into the details of planning, it’s easy to become myopic and lose sight of the bigger picture. At regular intervals during the planning process, you should check your progress against the broader perspective to make certain you aren’t losing the forest for the trees. To plan effectively you need to have an accurate understanding of the skill sets and capabilities of everyone who will work to execute your plans. Your accuracy in assessing the human capital at your disposal is one of the biggest indicators of the eventual success or failure of any plan.

It’s a lot more fun to plan ambitiously than it is to execute ambitious plans. There’s nothing wrong with being zealous - just make sure your plans are realistic. Otherwise, you risk burning everyone out.

As a corollary of being realistic, you will inevitably find moments when even the best-laid plans require some serious tenacity to execute. Be prepared for the inevitable grind, and be strategic about when to push hard to avoid burnout.

It’s tempting to lay out a plan that runs lean on staffing and resources because this creates effi ciency, but this efficiency only exists on paper. It’s better to have a larger budget and scope than you’ll use, rather than create something that looks great on paper but ultimately fails.

Unexpected events can accelerate, alter, or derail your plans. You should eagerly await unexpected infl uences, rather than getting blindsided by them.

People will wait to see if a leader is courageous before they’re willing to follow his or her lead. Once people see that a leader is willing to make diffi cult decisions, challenge the status quo, rise above adversity, take responsibility for his or her actions, and the like, they see that it’s safe to follow. People need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make diffi cult decisions and watch over them. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. Courageous leaders make people feel safe and protected, and people are far more likely to show courage themselves when their leaders do the same.

If you’re not the type that runs toward the sound of gunfi re, don’t worry; courage is a core leadership skill that can be developed with focus and effort. Your courage is manifest in the decisions you make every single day. Every day, indeed every decision, provides a new opportunity to act courageously. Courage is a highly visible skill―your people will notice when you demonstrate it in small or large doses.

Leadership development consultants are students of how people operate inside organizations and use this knowledge to help companies manage their most valuable assets―their people. Consultants with great ideas soon fi nd themselves running their own burgeoning companies. This places them in an interesting predicament. That is, will they practice what they preach? Sadly, some do not.