Leadership without Courage is like a Bike without Gears, you can peddle all you want but You are going Nowhere. Effective leadership requires many forms of Courage. One of the most essential is the Courage to Act. In the first blog in this series I compared the leadership of President Obama to that of President Putin. Words are never enough. To paraphrase the retired CEO of Allied Signal, Larry Bossidy, Leaders are known by what they do, not what they say. Being articulate and well-spoken is an asset but it is not leading.
In my work over the years with more than a hundred CEOs, their companies, and thousands of teams, I have found that every issue of ineffective leadership comes back to lacking one or more of the 7 Acts of Courage that I write about. Some lack the Courage to Dream and put it out there. Some lack the Courage to see the Current Reality, they deny, defer or deflect seeing what is what. Others lack the courage to Confront and don’t deal with or challenge people or issues soon enough. Many lack the Courage to Be Confronted and thus end up blind-sided, caught by surprise and having to react versus act, let alone be proactive. Still others lack the Courage to Learn and Grow, to step out of their zone of comfort and to embrace ambiguity, leading to stagnation and lack of innovation. Many more lack the Courage to Be Vulnerable, to able to ask for help or to admit they don’t know. They defend against being known or truly connecting at a heart level with others.
Finally, there are some who lack the Courage to Act. They are like the spectators in the stands of the arena that Teddy Roosevelt wrote about, instead of the gladiator on the floor of the arena taking action and putting self at risk. Leaders who fail to Act – fail rather quickly.
Where do you stand with your own acts of Courage?
Effective leadership requires the Courage to Act. Without it, you are left with only good intentions or a hope for something better – but with no traction to get it done.
At this point in time it would appear that on the world stage President Putin in Russia has that essential form of Courage while President Obama does not. It is never a good thing on the global stage to appear weak.
President Obama is, at heart, a good man with good intentions. I believe he sincerely wants to see the world be a better place. But, good intentions, hope, and goodness of heart are not enough. A leader must be able to act.
President Putin is a strategist and a chess player. He thinks many moves ahead and he takes the measure of his opponents. This means he is not only active but also proactive.
President Obama is a man of hope and charisma who believes that by saying something is a certain way he can make it that way. He wants to be able to speak about an issue and have it be resolved by the power of his rhetoric. This means he appears to be repeatedly caught flat-footed by others, for instance, Assad crossing the “red line” in Syria; and now Putin taking control of Crimea. Hope and speeches however are never enough.
Putin is former KGB. He believes in force and uses force. He is also a master of chess, he knows how to plan ahead. President Obama needs to stop acting as if he is playing a friendly game of checkers and bring in a Chess Master to tutor and help him play the global game of politics far better than he has thus far.