A good leader isn’t tripped up by the wrong decision, but takes action to identify the problem and fix it
One of my key responsibilities is to make my team more effective, promotable, raise-worthy and employable.
My old CEO at Dr Pepper used to say, “I can’t guarantee your employment, but stick with me, and I will guarantee your employability.” John Albers was right. He was, in a way, a gardener of his employees. He planted me into the dirt of difficult decision-making. He watered me with encouragement and big thinking. He was judicious with the use of bulls#!t. His force of personality shone down on me with expectations of excellence. And so I grew.
It was Albers who instilled in me the ambition to lead with impact and make a difference, and to not accept whatever the outcome, but to create them. John used a term I don’t think was in business nomenclature in the 1980s: managerial courage.
Managerial courage isn’t about steamrolling other people or bulldozing with your ideas. It’s about putting your finger on the wound and doing what you believe to be right without regard for how the outcome will reflect on you. It comes in the form of making principled decisions and knowing that principles often cost.
There is a “Nike-esque” quality to managerial courage. “Just do it” means getting from point A to point B whether you are hurt, impeded, afraid or uncertain. There is a will to do the right thing underneath those uncomfortable feelings.
The takeaway here is not to preface every idea you have with a disclaimer that you could be wrong, that “it depends” or another passive-aggressive phrase. Just tell me where you stand.
Yes, every decision will have its variety of reactions, which in turn define the outcome of that decision—but it will not define you.
There is this amazing set of disarming words that should be in every person’s repertoire: “My decision was wrong, and here’s why.” When I hear those words, I am transfixed on the solution, not the person who was mistaken. It’s physics, really. The smaller you can make your identity in decision-making, the more the decision itself can stand on its merits.
Naturally, when you demonstrate the ability to make good decisions, your reputation as a strong leader grows. But when you make yourself big in a decision-making process, your ideas will be small. Believe me when I say it will take 10 seconds for others to determine whether you are someone who tries to be right or someone who needs to be right.
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