In these times of uncertainty, there are many factors that can lead to stress. The feeling of “loss of meaning” in one’s own actions is increasingly present among employees. As a result, the search for bearings in the professional world is no longer a phenomenon to be underestimated. Once mainly expected from local managers, as well as from members of the Executive Board, over the past few years, “managerial courage” seems to have become one of the main levers, which enable organisations to achieve their objectives. Paradoxically, more often than not this essential skill is poorly represented.
But what is “managerial courage”? How is it characterised? How can it be developed to benefit your teams and your company?
But what is managerial courage exactly?
There are many different interpretations of this concept, however, managerial courage can generally be defined as:
the ability to objectively perceive, take a stand and deal with difficult situations, by clearly expressing one’s opinions at the right time, to the right audience, in the right way. This is in spite of any personal fears and anxieties regarding the likely unpopularity of such positions among the audiences addressed.
Let us analyse this definition further.
According to this definition, a manager should perceive difficult situations objectively, and therefore leave aside his or her own feelings in order to gain an unbiased picture of the situation. However, it is exactly the opposite that is recommended! The manager should in fact be aware of his/her own limits, those of his/her zone of action and his/her zone of influence in relation to a given situation. The same applies to his/her values, which, if properly identified, are an integral part of the tools at his/her disposal to analyse the situation. Finally, it is essential that the manager thinks beyond him/herself and puts the interests of his/her team/service/department first.
According to this definition, a manager must also have the ability to take a stand on difficult issues and thus, after analysis, take a firm decision on a given situation. On the one hand, this provides his or her team(s) with guidance concerning the work they will have to carry out and on the other hand explains to his/her superiors why this decision was taken.
To achieve this, a manager must express his or her views clearly so that there is no ambiguity or vagueness about the content or form of the message. The timing of the message is equally important; for example, in an emergency situation it may be detrimental to the company and/or its employees to remain silent about the direction the situation is taking (e.g. delaying a project, misalignment of strategy and operations, etc.). Managerial courage must therefore be mobilised immediately when events, decisions or behaviours emerge that run counter to the smooth running of the company or constitute an obstacle to the achievement of the company’s objectives.
The message communicated by the manager must be adapted to suit the audience targeted. Moreover, the message will have a greater impact if the manager shows empathy and assertiveness, regardless of the context of the audience.
Managerial courage is also found when the expression of an unpopular decision or position may jeopardize a manager’s reputation in the eyes of a specific audience. The decision taken must be upheld despite any such doubts, because – after assessing the situation – the manager is convinced that it is the right decision/position.
Managerial courage is not….
Managerial courage pushes the manager to act and to leave his/her comfort zone to express his/her convictions, even if these go against the grain of conventional thinking linked to a specific situation; however, it should not be confused with:
where the manager sets him/herself up as a small, all-powerful leader and decides everything, in his/her own corner, without analysis or consultation, convinced of the omnipotence of his/her own knowledge. On the contrary, (s)he must give his/her employees the opportunity to assert themselves by taking initiatives and thus to flourish in their work.
when a manager may be tempted to engage in a fight to contradict decisions taken, without having him/herself taken the time or the necessary distance to analyse the situation.
How can one develop managerial courage?
The good news is that managerial courage is a skill that can be developed. So here are six best practices for any manager who wants to add this skill to his or her portfolio:
– Get used to taking a step back before making decisions on given situations in order to analyse them objectively;
– regularly question your vulnerability, values, fears and limiting beliefs
– work on your assertive communication in order to avoid any vagueness when addressing expectations, compliments or reframing requests to colleagues or management;
– find the right arguments to explain decisions and give meaning to the direction you want to take in your work;
– learn to say no when necessary, despite the pressures you may be under;
– remember all the above points and apply them regularly, because practice makes perfect.
Why is managerial courage so important?
A manager cannot achieve his/her objectives alone, (s)he needs the contribution and commitment of his/her teams. Managerial courage is important because it allows employees to be reliably guided in their missions and tasks in everyday situations, as well as in crisis situations. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, employees are looking for authenticity and meaning in their work. They give respect, credibility and trust to managers who “speak the truth”, who are fair, and who assume their share of vulnerability and responsibility whatever the context. Managerial courage will undoubtedly prevent the company and its employees from following a disadvantageous path, in this way a manager who has taken the right decision will prevent the company from suffering a loss of time, money, efficiency and motivation in achieving its objectives.