Corporate mind-sets have to change, organisations have to be restructured and changed. There is a need for courage in todays organisations!
Courage has always been an important part of running a business. We can look at the stars, rising stars and fallen stars of business and see where courageous decisions (or the lack of them) have made all the difference. The Elon Musks and Jeff Bezoses of this world take courageous decisions everyday that will, most probably, be taking you and me into space one day soon. Just imagine if one of them had been the CEO of Toys-R-Us or Kodak!
Right now there is a great need for courage in organisations as we come to terms with the need to transform, digitalise and put customer experiences first. It’s certainly not a smooth or easy ride. Transformation requires tough decisions. Corporate mind-sets have to change, organisations have to be restructured, and in some cases, companies have to take new directions. If you recognise the need for this in your organisation, here are six things you should know about corporate courage.
Corporate courage isn’t about taking brash decisions, it’s about being brave and savvy; using your experience and judgement before acting. Professor Adrian Furnham from the University College London, talks about the four types of corporate courage necessary for successful leadership.
Interpersonal courage is about confronting poor performers and standing up to the bullies in a company or team. Risk-taking courage is about making carefully weighted decisions based on imperfect information. It’s part intellectual, part emotional. Moral courage is about knowing the differences between right and wrong, i.e. not promoting favourites ahead of the best person for the job or fudging documents in your favour. Physical courage is about leading from the front and pushing yourself when you feel you have little left to give. Read the article
It’s easier to be courageous when the people implementing your decisions are onboard. In the traditionally low risk-taking insurance and banking industry, one player stands out among the rest in Scandinavia – Länsförsakringar. In a recent interview, Head of Customer Success, Susanne Bergh, talks about the courageous decisions she and the Länsförsakringar bank have taken in order to be voted the country’s best mobile bank. “I told my team that I wanted us to become the best bank in Sweden. When my team asked me how we were going to do it, I told them I didn’t have the answers, it was up to them to figure it out. Courage is about having the right team, giving them responsibility and guiding and trusting them.” Read the interview.
According to Harvard Business School Professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a familiar pattern can be observed at troubled companies, in which managers a) actively avoid responding to new initiatives, b) ignore internal conflicts, and c) withhold resources and information. Despite this they will claim to have supported any successful projects but are quick to point the figure at failures.
“Lack of courage stymies positive change at all levels,” she says. “Sticking with the status quo is tempting. Once a course is set, it becomes the path of least resistance. But other paths must be explored, lest we regret the one not taken.” Read the article
Failure sparks a world of fear in many companies. But if employees are afraid to fail, they are far less likely to innovate, and opportunities will be missed. “People tend to weigh the positives and the negatives of any decision,” says Leif Denti, Researcher in Leadership, Innovation and Management at Gothenburg University. “To create an innovative organisation you need trust, courage and risk. Risk is a prerequisite of innovation but to take risks, people have to trust their manager and their colleagues. If you make it easy for employees to realise their ideas, they will automatically be more courageous and proactive.” Read the courage report where this article interview was published.
Most companies that get ahead and manage to stay ahead follow a similar pattern. According to Jeff Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University, “The best companies and the best leaders understand the real drivers of business success: a long-term perspective which focuses on customer and employee relationships as the sources of competitive advantage and an emphasis on values and ethics as guides to decision making.”
He then goes on to talk about how CEOs that stand out from the pack have “the courage to implement (their) insights even when, or particularly when, they seem to defy conventional wisdom.” Read the article
“There are literally thousands of competent managers who can run organisations efficiently using pre-determined operating plans, but few with the courage to transform entire enterprises,” according to former Medtronic CEO, and Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, Bill George. Talking about his own experience of not making a courageous decision and playing catch-up years because of it, he says “It takes bold decisions to build great global companies. If businesses are managed without courageous leadership, then R&D programs, product pipelines, investments in emerging markets, and employees’ commitment to the company’s mission all wither.” Read the article
This article was inspired by the Courage Report, which was commissioned by Daresay to discover the state of courage among today’s leaders in large organisations.