Mental courage is important for a leader. It lets you examine all the options, including those that don’t initially attract you. But for a team leader or project leader to show mental courage, you must take a risk assessment. Ask yourself these questions:
- What happens to you if you speak up?
- What happens to you if you don’t?
- What happens to others if you speak up?
- What happens to others if you don’t?
Here is an example of a project leader showing mental courage. The new director of a mining project was told that completion estimates of the schedules and budget were set, but once he got his feet wet he found out those schedules were unlikely to be met. He knew from prior experience that there are always layers and nuances to learn, and discover. It’s important for a leader to show the courage and mental toughness not to make a decision when it may be premature.
So the project leader asked questions of his team members. He would say: “Help me understand” or “There’s something that concerns me a little” or “What’s your perspective on this?”
As this was going on his boss asked him about his views, and he said he hadn’t made up his mind yet. He wanted more time, but made sure to book a meeting with his boss at the three-month mark – three months after he took over the project as leader. When that time arrived, the project director was ready; he asked his boss for additional resources and wanted to bring in an outside person who could analyze the situation and test his own assumptions. Through this exercise, he and his boss were able to amend the schedule.
What are the benefits of demonstrating courage?
- In resisting the pressure to commit to a certain point of view too soon, he avoided looking like he was quick to judge, and avoided alienating his people. In short, he won their trust.
- He used this time to explore the issue with the team, and get their insights.
- He slowed things down to make sure he was right. This was important since it would involve taking some bad news up the organization (i.e., extending the deadline).
- He convinced his boss that the integrities of himself and the boss were on the line.
It’s all a matter of having the courage of your convictions to take appropriate action. Team cultures are built on the accumulation of little actions. A good team leader will always communicate the importance of the team’s culture and the importance of respect.
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