To Be A Visionary, Try Having Courage

John’s Perspective

Courage is the common trait in leaders who are considered visionary disrupters.

Being a leader, unlike being a manager, requires a lot of characteristics. Empathy, passion, accountability, and mindfulness are all important. And many leaders, even great ones, don’t all have the exact same set of traits. However, for leaders who are truly visionaries, the ones who innovate and challenge the status quo, the common trait is courage.

Courage is a trait from which all leaders can benefit.

Even if you’re not naturally suited to visionary leadership, developing and demonstrating courage can be helpful to driving passion on your team. There are obvious situations when you’d need to demonstrate courage, such as if you’re asked to do something unethical or illegal. It’s the smaller, every day situations that require more work to show courage, because the stakes are presumed to be lower. If you really believe in an idea or process, are you (professionally and politely) continuing to champion it, or are you giving up when you receive pushback? If you hear someone making an unprofessional comment, are you letting them know those comments aren’t appreciated or accepted in your organization? There are so many instances when we just “let it go” because we think it’s not worth getting involved, pushing back, or making anyone not like us. But, these are all small instances of how we can develop and demonstrate courage.

Whenever you are supporting your team, it’s vital you show them you have the courage to carry through with your intentions. It might be explaining to your CFO why you need to invest more in one of their projects or it might be putting them up for promotion with your boss. Even if your best intentions don’t come to fruition, your team will respect you for having the courage and tenacity to follow-through. This is true if you’re a visionary or not.

And don’t worry if you’re not naturally a visionary. You can still be a great leader.

While we may speak about disruptive leaders and visionaries with reverence, there are scores of amazing leaders (perhaps even you!) who don’t have the traits more common in visionary leaders. This doesn’t mean that these leaders aren’t courageous or don’t have the tenacity to stick with an idea, nor does it make them ineffective leaders. Particularly if you’re working in close proximity to a visionary leader, not being a visionary can provide a helpful counterbalance for your organization’s future. You have to be true to your own natural style.

That being said, we can all demonstrate more courage. Provide justification for your status-quo defying idea when it gets initially shot down, and let your voice be politely heard if you see behavior or actions that are inconsistent with your organization’s values. Courage is contagious, and the more you demonstrate, the more your organization will demonstrate it, too.