Courage. Everyone wants it. But few truly live with it, and out of it. The reality is, courage is not just a personal trait. It’s an organizational trait as well. And we all want, in some way, to be part of an organization and team that’s willing to push up the hill, against the odds, beyond all doubts, to achieve results most thought impossible. So here are a few thoughts about creating a courageous organizational culture:
1. Allow for Failure. The road to success is many times paved with multiple failures. As Henry Ford once said, “Success is 99 percent failure.” And from the great Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.” Be fearless. Not fearful. I meet so many leaders who are “just trying to get by.” They are scared to make any kind of decision, but fear can’t be our compass.
2. Reward Innovation. Courageous organizations lead with innovation. I’ve heard Andy Stanley say many times, “What is rewarded gets repeated. What is rewarded gets repeated.” You reward what matters most. And if innovation matters in your organization, create an environment that rewards it.
3. Take bold risks. Bold vision is inspiring and creates bold team members. Be bold and take bold but calculated risks. Doing something new requires risk-taking, so don’t always play it safe. The goal of life is not to arrive at death safely. We can’t effectively lead in a state of fear and inactivity.
4. Pursue the right opportunities and say ‘No’ often. Aggressively pursue a few things that make sense. Less is more in this case. Have a laser-like focus. Not every opportunity is a great one. Pursue the great, not just the good. While it’s important to take bold risks and pursue the right opportunities, it’s also important to say ‘No’ to almost everything else. Being focused on doing a few things great is way better than doing a bunch of things average.
5. Liberally pass on responsibility and authority to your team. If you want your team to be courageous, give them the chance to lead. Push them into moments that require them to lean into courage. For many of us, handing over responsibility and authority is one of the most difficult things for us to do. But it’s imperative in developing courage in your team members.
6. Set standards that scare you. Your level of excellence should be something that is almost unattainable. Hold yourself to a standard that requires greatness, regardless of available resources. Innovation is often more prevalent in organizations that have fewer resources at their disposal, not more. Over the years at Catalyst, we’ve always set a standard to create the best high-energy experiential leadership conference in the world. Period. That is our standard. And we strive for it constantly.
The question is, Are you willing to lead a courageous organization? Remember, courage is the fuel to cross barriers, silence the doubters and take the next hill. Confront your fears. Push forward, even when everything within you is pulling at you to shrink back and maintain the status quo. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
What would you pursue today if you weren’t afraid to fail? If you knew for certain that you were the one to make it happen? Go do that. Many times, making a difference is just the simple courage to make a move.