All leaders have been in a position where they are reluctant to tackle a difficult issue or to deal with a conflictual iStock_000006527867_Smallsituation. Faced with these situations the predominant act for some is non-action and avoidance. Although I do not like to admit it,  I have been in this situation and if you are honest with yourself, I am sure that you have as well.

But what causes leaders to get stuck? What causes a leader to become immobilized? What prevents a leader from moving beyond their comfort zone and work through difficult situations when their leadership is challenged and sometimes threatened?

It is FEAR. 

In his soon to be published book, The Power of Starting Something Stupid, Richie Norton describes fear as “causing us to exercise bad judgment and to make decisions from an emotional, unreliable and downright unhealthy state of mind – all significant roadblocks on our way to success.” Norton goes on to state that if “fear is not properly mitigated and overcome, it can be absolutely debilitating. Ultimately, that’s why so many people stay stuck. They’re so afraid of making the wrong choice, heading the wrong direction, or looking stupid, that they don’t ever go anywhere at all.”

Craig Groeschel in his book Soul Detox outlines fear of loss, rejection, failure and fear of the unknown as types of fear that immobilizes people. He encourages people to break free of fear and act courageously. To demonstrate the definition of courage stated by Robert Anthony where, “Courage is the willingness to be afraid and act anyway.”

What causes leaders to confront fear and act courageously? What motivates them to ultimately act?

At times a leader acts out of necessity as it is an expectation of the job. Intentional and deliberate action occurs swiftly, however, in situations where one’s credibility and integrity are questioned or at risk, or when inaction will undermine your leadership. It is the effective leader who chooses to act courageously and decisively.

These courageous leaders embrace adversity. When faced with challenges, conflict and difficult decisions they leaders overcome fear, they persevere and act with conviction. It stretches them. It pushes them out of their comfort zone and it is risky. But it is worth it. All leaders will eventually face the choice of having to decide to act courageously and embrace arduous issues and situations, or to neglect and avoid them.

The most effective and influential leaders chose to act courageously. To face ones fears is not always easy. However, it is the difficult issues and situations that ultimately determine a leader’s effectiveness and influence. Courageous leaders are respected, admired and achieve success. As Richie Norton summarizes, “Learning how to effectively manage and work through fear is a high-performance skill that leads to achieving goals.”

So when faced with challenging situations do not shy away. Embrace the fear and tackle the tough issues head on. Or as John Wayne puts it best, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” So “saddle up” and be a courageous leader.

When have you faced a situation where you had to demonstrate courageous leadership? What was the outcome?


Claudio Morelli
Claudio is a retired Superintendent/CEO of the Burnaby School District in British Columbia and the Wellspring Academy Advisor for the Wellspring Foundation for Education in Kigali Rwanda. As a parent, as an experienced facilitator and educator for over 30 plus years, he uses his personal and professional learning and experience to enhance and extend trust by demonstrating authenticity, integrity and caring in all relationships. Claudio is dedicated to service, leadership and building community. Visit Claudio's blog Building Servant Hearts at www.buildingservanthearts and on Twitter @CDMorelli.
Claudio Morelli

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