Leaders challenge what is for the sake of what could and should be. That’s the job of a leader. But challenging what has always been and what has always worked before requires guts. Simply recognizing the need for change does not define leadership. The leader is the one who has the COURAGE to act on what he sees. A leader is someone who has the courage to say PUBLICLY what everyone is whispering privately. It is not his insight that sets the leader apart from the crowd, it is his courage to ACT, the courage to SPEAK UP when everyone else is silent.
Beyond the need to challenge what should be changed, leaders have been given the assignment to take people to places they’ve never been themselves. Leaders provide a mental picture of a preferred future and ask people to follow them there. Leaders require those around them to abandon the known and embrace the unknown with no guarantee of success. As leaders we are asking men and women not only to follow us to a place they’ve never been before, but we are asking them to follow us to a place where we’ve never been before either. That takes GUTS, that takes NERVE and that takes COURAGE.
We all know the fear associated with walking into a dark room or traversing an unlit path in the night. Leading into the future gives the same exact feeling. Leadership requires the courage to WALK IN THE DARK. The darkness is the uncertainty that accompanies change, The mystery whether a new idea you just introduced will be accepted, the fear whether the idea will be rejected, the risk of being wrong. For this reason, it is the dark that provides the leader with his greatest opportunities. Its your response to the dark that determines in large part whether or not you will be called on to lead. For the darkness is what keeps the average person from stepping outside the security of what has always been.Yet many leaders who lack the courage to forge ahead alone yearn for someone to take the first step, to go first, to show the way. It could be argued that the dark (the unknown, uncertainty) provides the context for leadership, because if the pathway to the future were lit, it would be crowded.
Leaders are not always the first to SEE an opportunity, they are simply the first to SEIZE opportunity. It is the person that seizes an opportunity that emerges as the leader. But fear has kept many would-be leaders on the side lines, while good opportunities paraded by. They didn’t lack INSIGHT, they lacked COURAGE. Leaders are not always the first to see the need for change, but they are first to act. And once they move away from the group, they are positioned to LEAD.
Think for a moment about the life experiences you would have missed had you given in to your fear. Chances are, you would never have learned to drive, you would never have learned to swim, you would have cancelled your job interview, you would have refused to speak at that conference, and some people would not have married. Unbridled fear results in Missed OPPORTUNITIES.
To be continued…