The Power of an Idea

Linus Pauling said that the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. I think I agree with that …. mostly. I say mostly because I’m not sure an idea can be considered good until somebody does something with it. 

Lots of people have good ideas, and lots of those people never do anything with them. 

One challenge with having an idea is that it takes courage to share it. The bigger the idea the more courage it takes.

Which brings us to Craig McCaw. Mr. McCaw is an idea man. I don’t know this for sure but I’d bet he has had lots of ideas, some good, some not so good. But one idea he had that turned out to be something of a success was the wild idea of a cellular phone. 

As a pioneer of the cellular industry and the founder of McCaw Cellular, now part of AT&T, he envisioned a time when a person would have one phone number that followed them wherever they went. That was a crazy idea, a big idea and an idea he had the courage to share. 

It was also an idea that worked. Today your cellular phone will work around the world, same number, following you wherever you go. 

One reason it worked, maybe the biggest reason, is that he had the courage to give voice to his ideas. He was willing to risk looking silly, or stupid, or even crazy to share his ideas and see what would come from them. 

Many of the things we take for granted today were once just an idea. Many, if not most of those ideas might even have been considered impossible and if no one had the courage to share their idea they would have stayed impossible.

Giving voice to your ideas is the first step to success. 

So take a chance. Share your idea, tell somebody. Yes, you need to protect your idea from those who would steal it but don’t let that keep you from taking your idea from it’s hiding place and showing it off a bit.

Just having an idea might make it a good idea but letting it loose just might make it a great one. Ideas only truly become powerful when they are shared. 

So…what’s your big idea?

Why Leaders Need Courage

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” – Winston Churchill 

The Roman historian Tacitus once said, “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” Today we might translate that to something like “always playing it safe makes it much harder to succeed.” 

Leaders need courage to make decisions that followers won’t make. They need courage not to just steer the ship but to set it’s course, sometimes heading into completely uncharted territory. Leaders need courage to stand on principle when non-leaders will sacrifice those principles in order to compromise. Leaders need courage to do what’s right, not just what’s popular.

Leaders need courage to take risks.

Here is an interesting thought. Those who have the courage to take risks and those who don’t experience the same amount of fear in their life. It’s just that a leader understands that courage is not the lack of fear, it is doing what they are afraid to do.

Everyone experiences and is held back by fear from time to time. Leaders find a way to overcome their fear and more forward more times than not.

When someone shows courage it encourages people but when a leader shows courage it inspires people. It inspires people to commit to the leader and that’s a very good thing. If your people see you always doing what’s safe they will follow that lead, they will always play it safe too and when they do growth is stopped dead in it’s tracks.

You probably won’t like this but I’m going to write it anyway….if you never feel fear then it’s likely you have retreated so far into your comfort zone that you’ve stopped growing. That almost certainly means that you’ve stopped leading too.

If you haven’t experienced fear in a while then now is the time. Go out and do something, anything worthwhile, that tests your courage just for the sake of growing in courage. It doesn’t matter what you do so long as you face a genuine fear. 

If you call yourself a leader and you want your people to grow then you had better be growing too. Growth requires change and change often means risk. Consistently successful leaders have the courage to accept those risks in order to grow.

Do you have the courage to succeed as a leader?

The Courage to Confront

Authentic Servant Leaders have courage. This allows them to make tough choices, it allows them to take calculated risks. Courage is their “secret sauce,” it’s what often separates them from lesser leaders. 

This courage also helps them confront people who need to be confronted. Because they are Authentic Servant Leaders when they confront someone they will do it with compassion. They confront people for two reasons, there is a problem that needs to be corrected and they care enough to want to help the person correct it. 

Sadly, Authentic Servant Leaders are few and far between so this post on confrontation is not about them.

It’s about your everyday leader, what I’d call an average leader. They are by far the largest occupier of so-called leadership positions within organizations both large and small. They do a lot of things right and some things wrong, I guess that’s why they are average.

Confrontation, or rather lack of confrontation, is one of the biggest shortcomings of an average leader. They are just as clear-eyed as any leader in that they see the same problems as anyone other leader. It’s just that they don’t deal with it.

Some of these average leaders are just lazy. Some “hope” it will just go away, some figure “the next guy can deal with it.” A few just put their head in the sand and pretend there are no issues worth confronting. 

Some are just afraid. They lack the courage to confront.

Fear holds us back! Make no mistake about this fact, fear has kept many very talented people from succeeding. Fear has kept many people will the skill to succeed from using their skills in the pursuit of success. Fear greatly limits success.

The great Dale Carnegie once said the only place fear is real is in our mind. The point was that the only way to really eliminate fear is to change our thinking. In his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” he writes that one way to overcome the stress of fear is to consider the situation you’re in and accept the worst that can happen. Once you’ve accepted the worst then you can begin to try to improve upon the worst in a much more clear-headed fashion. 

If you’re a leader who lacks the courage to confront then consider the worst that could happen. You could completely screw it up. Perhaps someone’s feelings will be hurt, maybe they will like you less. They may talk about you behind your back. You may fail miserably.

Just an aside, not confronting a situation that demands confrontation virtually guarantees each of those outcomes eventually. 

When considering how to improve on the worst that can happen think about these ideas:

Don’t confront when you’re angry. Let the dust settle a little bit before confronting anyone, things said “in the moment” are impossible to unsay. As a rule don’t confront someone about an issue when you’re still mad about the issue. That said, we’re talking minutes or hours here to settle your emotions, not months or years. The longer you wait to confront someone the bigger your mountain of fear will become. Take a small amount of time to plan your confrontation but the key here is small amount of time. 

Practice what you want to say. Go off by yourself somewhere and actually say it out loud. I know that sounds kind of weird but it will help you feel better about approaching the other person. 

Don’t turn it into an argument. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. Proving to someone that they are wrong will not help them correct the situation. Don’t get sucked into their argumentative tone and don’t turn the discussion into a point, counterpoint-point debate. Say what you need to say as often as you need to say it and then be quiet. Listen. Repeat your point as needed but do not be distracted by excuses and arguments that have no bearing on the issue or person being confronted.

Agree on the next steps. Any effective confrontation leads to a plan for resolution. Just telling someone about a problem is unlikely to solve the problem. Agree on what needs to happen for the issue or concern to be be resolved, or at least agree on some initial steps. 

Understand that this may not be a fun conversation, it may not be “clean.” You may not feel great about it when it’s over and it may not go exactly as you had planned. You might even have made things temporarily worse. 

But always know this: almost all big problems were once little problems. They became big problems because they were not confronted when they were small. You risk making a small problem bigger by confronting it, you guarantee it gets bigger by not confronting it. 

 

 

The Courage of Leadership

Authentic leaders are very unique people. Perhaps that’s why we see so few of them in everyday life. They set themselves apart not only by what they say but by what they do. They simply do things differently than people who merely hold a leadership position or have an impressive sounding title. 

There are a few minimum requirements or qualities that a person must possess to qualify as an authentic leader. The actual qualities of authentic leaders can be debated forever but there are some that are absolute. Integrity and caring are two of the big ones. Judgment, or as I prefer to call it, Judgcernment, is another. Judgcernment is the ability to make a correct decision using both good judgment and discernment. 

That ability is key to effective authentic leadership. Yet many leaders have that ability and still fail in their leadership responsibilities. I believe that’s because they lack one other essential quality of leadership: Courage.

They just don’t have the nerve to pull the trigger on big decisions. They have all the facts, they know what’s right, they have correctly judged and weighed all the possibilities and still they can’t bring themselves to say yes or no.

Courage in a leader inspires their followers to commit rather than merely comply. Followers see the inner battle their leader fights to do what’s right and they commit to do what’s right as well, growing themselves, their leader and their organization.

Leaders with courage don’t just work to smooth things over, they commit to making them right. This is perhaps the hardest part of big decision making; if the decision causes change for anyone it will make someone unhappy. It might even be unfair, but courageous leaders know that the right thing to do isn’t always the fair thing to do and they do it anyway. If you believe that everyone must love you in order for them to respect you then you may be a wonderful friend but you’re likely not an authentic leader.

Courageous leaders are willing to risk being wrong sometimes in order to be right most of the time. They know that decisions move the organization forward. They know that a lack of a decision is in fact a decision; it’s a decision to do nothing and that’s a decision that is almost always wrong and at times catastrophic. 

Courageous leaders make a positive difference in whatever organization they serve. They can come from any level of an organization and they need no tittle or position to effectively influence those around them. They inspire people and organizations to greatness and their leadership far outlasts them.

If you’re wondering if you have the courage to be an authentic leader then remember this: courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is facing your fear and moving forward anyway. Dale Carnegie always said that the only place fear really existed was in our mind. Remove fear from your thoughts today and you’ll find the courage you already possess tomorrow.  

The Tyranny of Self-Doubt

When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” ~Honore de Balzac

There are not many obstacles bigger and more challenging for people on the road to success than the tyranny of self-doubt. It’s robs people of their ability to think clearly. It cheats them of their creativity and can paralyze them straight into the failure that they so greatly fear. 

Yes fear!

Fear is a tremendous source of self-doubt and it is a key part of a vicious cycle. More fear cause more self-doubt and more self-doubt causes more fear. Let’s look at some ideas to help eliminate both for our lives. 

First set goals and have a plan to achieve them. Knowing what needs to be done and how you intend to accomplish it goes a long way towards eliminating self-doubt. The more specific your plan the less “scary” it is so be specific. List start and end dates for each action required in your plan. Be realistic, do not set goals that cannot be achieved and know your sources of support. Things will not go exactly according to plan so build in alternatives for each step of your plan. 

Remember past successes, even small ones. One of the best predictors of what you’ll accomplish in the future in what you’ve accomplished in the past. Even people on something of a “failure streak” have successes in their past. That’s where your focus should be; on your successes. Learn from your failures, store that knowledge for later use but forget the failure. 

Get rid of the “victim” mentality. There is just no nice way to say this… most people full of self-doubt see themselves as victims. Victims of circumstance, of other people, of the economy, and sadly, sometimes even victims of themselves. The most successful people know this fact: Circumstances, people, and other “stuff” can make you a victim for a time but only you can make yourself a victim for a lifetime. When you accept full responsibility for your success, regardless of anything or anyone else, your odds of success go way, way up. 

Eliminate toxic people from your life. Toxic people poison your mind. They convince you that their failures are yours. They tell you, often repeatedly, that you “can’t,” can’t do it, can’t learn it, can’t think it, you just can’t. Their negative attitude is terribly contagious so stay the heck away from them. Instead find successful, positive people to associate with They will push you and inspire you. There’s no nice way to say this either but here’s a fact: your friends might be the nicest people in the world but if they have never experienced sustained success in their life it’s unlikely you will either. 

Do something. Doing almost anything is better than doing nothing. The longer you sit idle the more time you give self-doubt and fear to grow inside of you. Even if you attempt something and fail you’re still closer to your next success than if you had done nothing. Get going, move, mingle, network, TRY! 

The elimination of self-doubt comes from effort so make the effort and make yourself a success. 

How to Find Courage

I had the opportunity this morning to present to a group of sales professionals. During one part of the presentation I made the comment that fear holds us back. Oftentimes when we need to do something and we can’t make ourselves do it it’s because fear gets in the way. 

I kind of let that thought hang and moved on but it got me to thinking; how do we get past our fear to do the things we need to do in order to succeed. 

I know some of the people in that group read this blog so for those of you who do, feel free to pass this along. For everyone else, I think you’ll find this useful too. I think that because fear is a major obstacle for anyone looking for success, so major in fact that I’m tempted to say THE major obstacle.

We don’t need to look very far to find courage; it’s already within us, all of us. It’s deeper in some people than others but to find success we all simply need to bring it to the surface. Here’s a few ideas on how we might do that:

Push Yourself. Do something, even if it’s small, to push yourself outside your comfort zone every single day. Think differently, admit you could be wrong. Give someone you think you don’t like a second chance. Look at a situation from another person’s point of view.

Trust Yourself. Surround yourself with people who care about you and have your best interests in mind. Your self-confidence and your self-value will improve. If you struggle to believe that “you can do it” then it’s vitally important that you have people near you who will remind you that you can. Stay away from people who would tear you down, they almost certainly do not have your best interests in mind.

Set Meaningful Goals. Make small easily accomplished goals each day. Once that becomes a habit make the goals a little more challenging. Once you teach yourself just how much you can accomplish fear tends to head for the exit. Once it’s out of you it’s very difficult for it to find it’s way back in. 

Control YOUR Attitude. The fastest way to improve your life is to improve your attitude. You can’t control every circumstance of your life but you can control your attitude everyday. A positive attitude is the enemy of fear. When you let other people and events impact your attitude you also let fear inside your head. A positive attitude reminds you how good you can be, it reminds you what you have already accomplished. A positive attitude will help you remember that you’ve overcome fear in the past and can do it again.

Don’t Procrastinate. The best time to take on a difficult task is the first chance you get. Fear doesn’t shrink by pretending it doesn’t exist. Attack it, prove it wrong. Do the most fearful thing you have to do first and the rest of your tasks become easier. When in doubt, DO IT NOW!

Courage is not the absence of fear, courage is doing something, moving forward, making progress, regardless of the fear. Take baby steps, you don’t have to eliminate all fear in a day, you just have to eliminate some fear everyday. 

Go for it!