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Last week my post quoted Howard Schultz … the currency of leadership is transparency.  The point being that people are looking for open, honest leaders … leaders they can trust because they are consistent in behavior and truthful … leaders who have integrity!

Make no mistake, being a leader with integrity is not an easy ask!  You may be asked to make bold and sometimes unpopular decisions (will you seek what is best for the business rather than yourself?)… you may be held accountable when things go wrong (will you accept responsibility, or pass blame?) … you may be asked to say or do things to meet the numbers (are you willing to compromise, even just a little bit?).

This morning I was reading about a virtue that is likely a predecessor to integrity.  Aristotle called it the first virtue, because it makes all of the other virtues (like integrity) possible. Leadership takes courage!

I thought this Forbes article titled 10 Traits of Courageous Leaders highlighted the topic nicely. Enjoy.

  1. Confront reality head-on.  Ditch the rose-colored glasses and face the facts about the state of your organization and business. Only by knowing the true current state can you lead your team to a better place.
  2. Seek feedback and listen.  We all have blind spots that impact the way we interact with others.  Unfiltered 360-degree feedback is not always easy to hear, but it can breathe new life into your relationships and leadership style if you listen and act.
  3. Say what needs to be said.  Real conversations can be awkward and uncomfortable, especially if conflict is involved. Having crucial conversations helps cut through the smoke and move through issues. This also means having the courage to put your opinions on the table, even if they are unpopular.
  4. Encourage push-back.  Many leaders feel pressure to have all the answers. By encouraging constructive dissent and healthy debate, you reinforce the strength of the team and demonstrate that in the tension of diverse opinions lies a better answer.
  5. Take action on performance issues.  Confronting people issues is hard, which is why so many leaders ignore them until they become a toxic threat to the team or company’s performance. By taking swift action to reassign or exit under-performing employees, you are helping yourself, the team and organization.
  6. Communicate openly and frequently.   Keep the lines of communication open, even when you don’t know all the answers.  Courageous leaders refuse to hide behind jargon and wiggle-words – they use straight-talk and are not afraid to say “I don’t know.”  They also share information instead of hoarding it.
  7. Lead change.  In fear-based environments, it’s all about protecting the status quo. Envision a better way, a better solution, a better product – and approach it with determination and an open mind, knowing that it will be messy and that a mid-course correction may be necessary. Remember that you need to bring people along the change process for them to truly engage.
  8. Make decisions and move forward.  Especially in environments of fear and intense change, it feels unsafe to commit to a decision and move ahead. Avoid the crutch of ‘analysis paralysis’ and make the decision.  Forward movement is always better than being stuck in place.
  9. Give credit to others.  Let go of the need for praise and instead give the credit to those around you.  At first it feels scary – will I be rendered irrelevant or unnecessary if my people are doing all the good stuff? Remember that a good leader takes more than their fair share of the blame and less than their fair share of the credit.
  10. Hold people (and yourself) accountable.  Expect people to perform and deliver on their commitments, and have courage to call them out when they don’t follow through.  Remember that accountability begins with you – holding yourself responsible for modeling the behaviors you expect of others.