People are innately wired to avoid risk. During times of times of change and uncertainty, our risk aversion is amplified. Yet the number one way to gaining competitive edge is by creating a culture where people feel safe and emboldened to innovate and challenge the status quo thinking. The first key to creating a 'culture of courage' is leading from possibility, not probability.
Winston Churchill once said that courage is the first of all virtues because it is the only one that guarantees all others. Courage is also what it takes to set a bold course for yourself and your organization, engage in a courageous conversation, forge new ground, and to be decisive in uncertainty.
As the world mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela and commemorates his greatness as a leader, we would do well to remember that one of the many hallmarks of his leadership was trust. The greatest leaders in the world gravitated toward Mr. Mandela because he was genuinely trustworthy and his purpose was to support peace, prosperity and unity not only in South Africa – but throughout the world. Mandela was able to lead people in ways that many find impossible to do. As he famously said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Unfortunately, trust is in rare supply these days. People are having trouble trusting each other, according to an AP-GfK poll conducted in November 2013, which found that Americans are suspicious of each other in their everyday encounters.
We are a society that puts a huge emphasis on rewards, and a school of psychology is based on it. In behavioral psychology, an American invention, there are two ways to stimulate a response from someone, either reward them or punish them. This two-way mechanism works with lower animals - dog and horse trainers, for example, use food treats to reinforce the behavior they want - so it should work with humans, or so the logic goes. If you want a certain behavior out of prisoners, for example, behaviorists advise giving privileges as a reward for obeying the rules and punishment for disobeying them.
What do employees really want from company leaders? The answer may surprise you — and, more important, may prompt you to change some of your practices.
“I don’t think the people who work for you want you to be an optimist anymore,” says GE CEO Jeff Immelt. “They want you to be realistic. They don’t want hollow promises, they want action: What’s your plan, and how are you going to solve problems?”
The hallmarks of what Immelt calls “positive leadership” are authenticity, transparent communication, a focus on the future, and the ability to solve problems and take action.
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