One of the things that never fails to intrigue me as an advisor to various types of leaders is their courage to step outside of their comfort zone and stretch themselves little by little on a daily basis.
What triggers and small actions make them confident enough to stay on mission, despite setbacks and deviation to plans? There are 4 main characteristics that helped me become braver professionally and that are predominant with the professionals I love working with the most:
1 – Brave leaders recognize that they have something unique to share and do it often
It might seem banal, but this is one of the biggest mindset issues to overcome for professionals, and any strategy applied before this is addressed will only be partly effective at best. I should know since it took me almost 2 years to nail my own niche as a business owner.
Like many others, I used to analyze my position on favorite offerings and compare myself to the best on each one of them. I always came out short. When I understood that the sweet spot between my experience, talents and ambition made me unique, it became so much easier to show vulnerability and share my messages with confidence on a frequent basis.
I meet professionals all the time who never reflect about their professional sweet spot. But the best leaders frequently revisit the topics forming their unique brilliance to nail their leader position further.
2 – Brave leaders are willing to do things that are unexpected or against the norm
Using the element of surprise seems to be another common denominator for leaders who are perceived as courageous. I recently observed this powerful effect in a situation where the Executive untraditionally assumed a masterminding mentor role during a management meeting. He awarded all participants exactly the same amount of time to present ideas and reflect upon their key priorities. The result was that everyone knew they would not be overridden by others claiming more time and that they all had the same opportunity to influence the decisions.
Another example is the leader demonstrating vulnerability when sharing a new insight in a group setting. Both actions build trust and resonance with peers and followers. What do we remember most from an introduction, a presentation or a reflection session: The person following the norm, or the peer breaking the pattern? Brave leaders break patterns all the time and stay top of mind.
3 – Brave leaders mobilize formal and informal mentors
When I ask people: “Who are your professional role models?” I often get very vague answers. I notice that those who are actively looking for and shadowing their role models are often stretching themselves professionally more than others. The courageous ones are approaching their role models and building relationships, online as well as offline. Asking for help and mobilizing mentors takes courage as it demonstrates vulnerability. Therefore, many people refrain.
When I change perspective and ask the same people: “How would you react if someone wanted your feedback on a crazy idea or asked for help on a delicate matter?” most of them respond that they would love to help. There seems to be a substantial potential for raising the bar as a leader in mobilizing the mentoring environment.
4 – Brave leaders take imperfect action
After the mindset shift towards understanding and trusting their own unique brilliance, this is probably the most important visible behavior for leaders who want to make great results on a daily basis: Brave leaders do not need all the answers nor any guarantees for success before kicking off their journey.
On a personal note, I experienced something during my first year as a business owner that helps me stick to imperfect action on a frequent basis: I was planning to run my first webinar as part of a program launch in January 2011. The program was a game called “Boost Your Personal Brand By Linking In.” It enabled players to learn how to use LinkedIn effectively over a period of 4 weeks via gamification techniques such as leader boards, feedback and community sharing. I needed at least 8 players to make the program work.
One week before the program start date, I had only 2 people signed up for the launch webinar and none for the program itself. Only one person showed up for the webinar and I was devastated. I was minutes away from cancelling the launch itself. Despite my stomach pain, I decided to go ahead, not showing the list of attendees so I could keep up appearances and use the recording of the webinar to promote during the final 6 days. What happened? 8 people signed up for the program and we re-launched 3 more programs during 2011. Since then, using webinars is business as usual.
Taking imperfect action is a method of reducing risk when making progress. The ruling mindset is all about playing to win, not avoiding failure. Failure is substituted by learning, exploring and reflecting.
What have you been putting on hold lately because you do not have the perfect circumstances? Taking imperfect action on this is probably the perfect challenge to build your courage as an Advancing Leader.