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COURAGE MASH-UP [a Micro Case Study]

Thanks, everyone for the positive feedback regarding my last blog post “How To Lead Your Organization with Courage.” I am really grateful and ask that you feel free to keep it coming along with any critiques you might have. I love that we are building conversations and communities together.

I believe that my previous post hit a chord for many of us because being courageous, especially in situations when the stakes are high, is hard to do. Organizational psychologist Dr. Adam Grant has a wonderful monthly newsletter called “Granted.” In August, he spoke with Dr. Brené Brown about vulnerability and leadership, and she defined vulnerability this way: “Vulnerability is very simply defined as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” She went on to say that, “based on our research and data, there just is no courage without vulnerability.” Dr. Grant then revealed that showing vulnerability as “the expert in the room” is often difficult for him.

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish year that began Monday night, Rabbi Sharon Brous spoke beautifully about the invaluable wisdom of listening to “the still small voice within us.” This authentic voice is often the answer for us about what we know, what we believe, and how we need to act moving forward. The challenge is in accepting what we hear because it requires us to allow in the fears, risks, and exposure to be vulnerable, usually in the face of power.

One of my clients recently had to choose between two outstanding candidates for a brand new C-Suite position overseeing a medical practice of over 6,000 doctors. His “homework” was amazing. In front of him when we spoke was feedback from all of the members of the C-Suite group and every executive and team that would work closely with the new leader throughout the entire medical complex. The results were fascinating. Those who worked the closest with Candidate #1 rated this candidate lower than those who didn’t. However, my client’s supervisors believed Candidate #1 was a content matter expert on par with my client, and that he was able to make rapid changes in a system that moves quite slowly. My client knew that by choosing Candidate #2, his original first choice, he would incur dissatisfaction from his superiors.

Candidate #2 was a human-focused leader, highly emotionally intelligent, and beloved by her supervisees. But, unlike Candidate #1, she had less knowledge about the intricacies of the content matter. Eighteen months earlier, my client left a highly successful healthcare practice to join this medical center and lead unprecedented transformational change. He knew it would be his last big career move and although a big risk, it was the right choice. What he found to his surprise was that the center was far from ready to execute that level of change. But, he persisted and believed that to tackle this challenge in a more successful way, he needed a partner in crime. He convinced all the stakeholders above that together with this new hire, big change was possible.

It was 9:00 PM and my client had to declare his choice at 7:00 AM the next morning. For the first time in his entire 35-year career, he could not choose one candidate over the other. What was blocking him? Why couldn’t he listen and then heed his still small voice within, that knew the right decision? Readers, he could have used your wisdom that night to help him. Yes, he was feeling vulnerable and worried to choose against his superiors’ judgment because he could be wrong. He did indeed have two excellent candidates but, in his soul, he knew Candidate #2 was the better choice.

I had to give him the bad news that he had done all of his homework perfectly. Now, he needed to make a courageous decision: to listen to that still small voice and choose to be vulnerable in order to make the right choice. A choice that would help thousands of people to have more access to better healthcare. And to forgive himself if in hindsight he would have chosen Candidate #1. Because that is the very best we can do; to lead courageously in the face of uncertainty, risk, and exposure, for a far greater purpose.

I have successfully helped transform executives and managers into courageous leaders over the last 30+ years. Schedule a consultation to kickstart your growth and achieve actionable, measurable, and specific outcomes for your future success.

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