Why Small Courageous Acts Are Required to Lead

Courage is the most important leadership skill you can have. Without it, you can’t lead. Those who fail to develop a courageous muscle through actions big or small aren’t inspiring and aren’t worth following. 

C.S. Lewis famously said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” Lewis got it right because every skill a leader needs to possess will meet its testing point at courage. 

However, the value of courage is consistently overlooked. Part of this is because when we first think of courage, we tend to think of heroic acts like landing a plane on the Hudson or saving a company going up in flames. Right behind heroic acts, courage is often thought of as an attribute that only a few extraordinary leaders possess because they are born with it. 

While these are widely popular views of courage, it is a far cry from how it’s leveraged by leaders daily. Most courageous acts are small, but they are never insignificant.  

Most courageous acts are small, but they are never insignificant.

Small courageous acts stacked upon each other add up. It’s having a crucial conversation, even when it’s inconvenient. It’s doing the right thing, especially when it’s not easy. It’s trying again right after failing.

I define courage in Building the Best as the “ability to do something that frightens you.” It comes from the Latin word cor, meaning heart. Courage comes from the heart.  In other words, acting from your heart and doing things that frighten you is a sign of leadership.  

What Happens When You’re Courageous

When you have yet to make many courageous decisions in your life or career, it’s tempting to believe you are just not a fearless leader. Instead, reject this negative thinking with all your might. 

Neuroscience research suggests that some people innately possess a thrill-seeking or “Type T” personality, courage is still required to act whether you are wired with higher risk tolerance levels or not.  Courage is a skill that anyone can develop.

In coaching leaders with different experience levels and industries, one thing always happens when leaders are courageous. They create clarity in the future. 

Clarity in the Future

One of the things many professionals are struggling with right now is clarity in their journey. There is so much uncertainty and doubt surrounding us right now; it has many questioning their purpose and pathway. Ironically, when you are frightened and decide to do something anyway, it creates clarity, not confusion. It shows us that we are on the right or wrong path, whereas if we did not act, we would remain stuck in the same place, filled with uncertainty. 

Leaders Who Act Courageously Create Clarity, Not Confusion

While we aspire to have clarity as quickly as possible, it is also true that the clarity we want may not find us at our own timeline but later. However, it should provide confidence to know that when you choose courage, you are on the path toward clarity. 

How to Be More Courageous

Since courage is essential in leadership and provides significant upside, we must work hard to exercise it. Here are a few of the strategies I have seen be effective:

  1. Write Down the Worst Possible Outcome. Our brains are fascinating because we have an almond-shaped mass called an Amygdala. This part of our brain has become best known for its role in fear processing. This means that this area in our brain controls fear and our responses to it. You are naturally wired to run from or avoid things that can be harmful. Getting in the habit of writing down the worst possible outcome from acting on something that frightens you often provides insight that the worst scenario isn’t actually all that bad.  
  2. Quantify the Best Possible Outcome. Since our brains constantly evaluate either the pain or gain in every situation, highlighting the benefits of courageous leadership is a powerful method to encourage action. Regardless if the end outcome meets or even exceeds our expectations, the practice of allowing your brain to visualize the possible benefits in a situation is a decisive step in the process of being more courageous. 
  3. Lean Into the Emotions. Acting as if emotions such as doubt or fear do not exist is a false path to courage. Being open and honest about your emotions is not a weakness; it is a strength. Dr. Susan David a leading expert on the topics of Toxic Positivity and emotions, said, “Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” The wisdom in Dr. David’s words can’t be overstated. Allow yourself to experience the emotions that would cause you not to act courageously and then decide to move forward despite them when it makes sense. 
“Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.”

Closing

The better you get at acting as a courageous leader, the easier it will be to set your fear aside and lead people, teams, and organizations to a better place than they are today. To quote the great Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” 

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Handle Fear Like the Best Leaders

courage

Do you remember how it felt when you had to make your first big professional decision? Whether it was to fire someone or make a significant purchasing decision, chances are, you felt fearful, nervous, and a bit skeptical.

While these are natural human emotions, figuring out how to consistently overcome them is a key to your progress. The reason is simple; your mind is more powerful than you think it is. It often is the difference between success and failure.  

Take Martha, an experienced salesperson at a software company, for example. She was outstanding in her role and had been a high performer for over five years. However, she yearned for more influence and impact on others in her career. So much so, she kept a leadership notebook of lessons she wanted to practice or avoid when she got her opportunity to lead.  

When a sales director position opened up in the firm, she immediately got excited and dreamed of what she would do in the role. But when the email went out about applying for the job, she didn’t respond right away. Instead, she doubted whether she was ready and if she was good enough to lead other people. She allowed her fear not to pursue the job, and one of her colleagues with less experience ended up as her boss.  

Now, there is no way to tell if Matha would have gotten the job over her colleague, but her mind, not her skills, eliminated her from a job she wanted. She allowed fear to win over courage. All her leadership notebook was missing was a simple lesson:

Rejecting fear and choosing courage dictates your future.

What is Fear?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined. According to Arash Javanbakht and Lisa Saab, in their article in the Smithsonian, What Happens in the Brain When We Feel Fear, “Fear reaction starts in the brain and spreads through the body to make adjustments for the best defense or flight reaction. The fear response starts in a region of the brain called the amygdala. This almond-shaped set of nuclei in the temporal lobe of the brain is dedicated to detecting the emotional salience of the stimuli – how much something stands out to us.”

When your amygdala activates through seeing or experiencing a feeling, it naturally triggers a fear response. Ryan Holiday, the author of Courage is Calling, wrote, “No human is without fear. What’s required is the ability to rise above it in the moments that matter.”

Holiday is correct; the most remarkable leaders on the planet have an amygdala in their brain, just like you and me. However, they recognize the battle against fear is permanent, and they have to overcome it constantly. 

The battle against fear is permanent. Choosing courage to overcome fear is temporary.

Why the Best Leaders Choose Courage

Regardless of how experienced you are, no one is immune to feelings of doubt and fear. However, the best leaders don’t allow it to stop them. Roy T. Bennet said it well, “Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart!”

Leaders today, unlike previous generations, have been thrust into a hyper uncertain work environment which causes higher levels of fear and anxiety. They have to overcome uncertainty in their minds and help their team members do the same as well. 

Uncertainty for leaders is when they face unmeasurable and unpredictable risks, often caused by things outside their control. However, if leaders had all the data and there was no uncertainly, not only would they not be required, there would be no decisions, there would just be foregone conclusions. 

In a keynote to global leaders, I told them, “uncertainty is why leadership is needed.”

“Uncertainty is why leadership is needed.”

The best leaders embrace uncertainty and choose courage because they would rather be part of the solution, not a bystander. They would rather be the “man in man in the arena” rather than sitting on the sidelines, allowing others to make a positive difference.  

The only way for this to happen is for leaders to reject fear and choose courage. I defined courage in Building the Best as “Being frightened and deciding to do it anyway.” The root of the word courage is cor- the Latin word for heart. Getting to people’s hearts is precisely where the best leaders start to separate themselves from others. 

Don’t Stop at Yourself, Help Others

Not only are the best leaders able to choose courage for themselves, but they can also inspire others to do the same by getting to their hearts. They breathe life into their team members by encouraging, challenging, and empowering them. All in an effort to help them learn and grow

Even though leaders know this isn’t easy, great leaders embrace failure and don’t accept fear as a decision on their team.  

Great leaders don’t accept fear as a decision they expect courage.  

Closing

It would be common thinking to believe the best leaders reject fear and choose courage naturally. This wouldn’t be true. Fear will always make itself felt because that’s how our brains are naturally wired.  

Rejecting fear and choosing courage is a decision, and it’s learned. It makes me reflect on some wise words about parenting. A mentor told me, “John, your job isn’t to keep your kids safe. Your job is to make them courageous.”

Whether you are leading kids or team members at work, people feel more engaged and alive when they make courageous decisions and it’s often someone else that helps us make them.

Just think back to Martha; if she had a leader or a coach who helped her overcome her fear and choose courage, where might she be today in her professional career?

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Lead With Courage

One old and plenty of new pencils on black background

Leaders must develop many attributes or skills if they want to have a meaningful impact in the workplace. Having a positive attitude will change your life, empathy improves your ability to connect with team members, while a focus on goal setting and accountability ensures that your team members meet their professional potential.  

But among all these essential elements of leadership, the value of courage is consistently overlooked. Part of this is because when we first think of courage, we tend to think of heroic acts like landing a plane on the Hudson or running into a burning building to save someone. Right behind a heroic act, courage is often thought of as an attribute that only a few extraordinary leaders possess. One’s that walk around with a big S on the chest like the comic Superman.

While these are widely popular views of courage, it is a far cry from how it’s used by great leaders on a daily basis and the word’s actual meaning. I defined it in my book Building the Best as the “ability to do something that frightens you.”

C.S. Lewis famously said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” Lewis got it right because each and every virtue a leader needs to possess will meet its testing point at some time. If that wasn’t enough the great William Wallace said it well in Braveheart; “people don’t follow titles; they follow courage.”

People don’t follow titles; they follow courage.  

In other words, a courageous leader is precisely the kind of leader required in today’s hyper-changing marketplace. 

What Happens When You’re Courageous

When you haven’t made many courageous decisions in your life or career, it’s tempting to believe you are just not a fearless leader. Reject this negative thinking with all your might. Courage can be exercised at any time with situations big and small by anyone willing to embrace it. 

While neuroscience research suggests that some people innately possess a thrill-seeking or “Type T” personality, courage is still required to act whether you are wired with higher risk tolerance levels or not.  

In working with leaders from all different backgrounds and industries, two significant outcomes happen when leaders are courageous. 

  1. Clarity in the Future
  2. Increased Opportunities

Clarity in the Future

One of the things many professionals are struggling with right now is clarity in their journey. There is so much uncertainty and doubt surrounding us right now; it has many questioning their purpose and pathway. What is ironic is when you are frightened and decide to do something anyway, it creates clarity, not confusion. It shows us that we are on the right or wrong path whereas if we did not act, we would remain stuck in the same place filled with uncertainty. 

Leaders Who Act Courageously Create Clarity, Not Confusion

While we aspire to have clarity as quickly as possible, it is also true that the clarity we want may not find us at our own timeline, but at at later time. However, it should provide confidence to know that when you are choosing courage, you are on the path towards clarity. 

Increase in Opportunities

Something funny happens when you act courageously as a leader, opportunity finds you. With an increase in opportunities comes the ability to make a significant impact on others and drive additional revenue. 

Entrepreneur John Wiesehan told me, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor. When you act courageously, these new opportunities have a funny way of finding you. Which then allows you to make calculated decisions about which opportunities to pursue.” 

Courageous leaders can examine new opportunities quickly, as Wiesehan suggests, to reject recklessness. If they feel they lack information or the bandwidth to pursue something, it allows them to choose the right time to act courageously in the future.

How to Be More Courageous

Since courage is essential in leadership and provides significant upside, we must work hard to exercise it. Here are a few of the strategies I have seen be effective:

  1. Write Down the Worst Possible Outcome. Our brains are fascinating because we have an almond-shaped mass in them called an Amygdala. This part of our brain has become best known for its role in fear processing. This means that this area in our brain controls fear and our responses to it. You are naturally wired to run from or avoid things that can be harmful.  Getting in the habit of writing down the worst possible outcome from acting on something that frightens you often provides insight that the worst scenario isn’t actually all that bad.  
  2. Quantify the Best Possible Outcome. Since our brains constantly evaluate either the pain or gain in every situation, highlighting the benefits of courageous leadership is a powerful method to encourage action. Regardless if the end outcome meets or even exceeds our expectations, the practice of allowing your brain to visualize the possible benefits in a situation is a decisive step in the process of being more courageous. 
  3. Lean Into the Emotions. Acting as if emotions such as doubt or fear do not exist is a false path to courage. Being open and honest about your emotions is not a weakness; it is a strength. In a recent episode of Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead Podcast, Dr. Susan David was speaking about the dangers of Toxic Positivity and said, “Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” The wisdom in Dr. David’s words can’t be overstated. Allow yourself to experience the emotions that would cause you not to act courageously and then decide to move forward despite them when it makes sense. 

“Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” Dr. Susan David

Closing

The better you get at acting as a courageous leader, the easier it will be to set your fear aside and lead people, teams, and organizations to a better place than they are today. To quote the great Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” 

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

What the Best Leaders Refuse to Tolerate

Top view on plastic forks on violet background

The culture of tolerance is here. In every aspect of life, we are now asked to accept every person’s choices and decisions. It’s one thing to be liberal with your endurance of others; but, that same tolerance will hinder your abilities as a leader.

Take Amy a division manager, at a large manufacturing company, as an example. She was handpicked to lead a team going through extensive change. One of her team members named Ron had been at the company for over 20 years. He was passed over for the promotion Amy received. Ron took every opportunity to undermine Amy in team meetings, threw her under the bus to upper management, and challenged every decision she made. Instead of making the difficult decision to move Ron to another company’s division or terminate him, Amy tolerated his questionable choices and bad behavior.  

Amy’s success hinged upon a key leadership lesson: 

What you tolerate, you encourage. 

You and I are just like Amy. To reach our full leadership potential, we must be intolerant of people’s actions, choices, and behaviors that clearly are in the wrong. 

In my research studying some of the best leaders on the planet for Building the Best, it was evident these leaders learned early on that they couldn’t make every person happy. They first developed a set of beliefs about what drives performance and helps improve their team members as human beings. Then they refused to accept anything that threatened or contradicted those beliefs.  

Before we get off track about what leaders should tolerate, it’s important to understand exactly what the word means. Toleration is defined as allowing, permitting, or acceptance of an action, idea, object, or person which one dislikes or disagrees with. So the natural question is, “What should you tolerate, and what should you not?”

What to Embrace

There is no doubt that every leader should not only be tolerant but embrace people who are of a different gender, race, religion, or nationality. If every person’s moral code being equal wasn’t enough, having a diverse team both in makeup and in thought is a competitive advantage.   

Research shows leaders who embrace new ideas, and different ways of thinking stay ahead in today’s rapidly changing business world. It’s simply impossible to achieve this without having different kinds of people from different backgrounds and with different perspectives. 

What Not to Tolerate

While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, there is a right and wrong in many situations.  

Too often leaders tolerate things that aren’t right in fear of backlash or judgment.  

While this seems like a sound strategy on the surface, it contradicts what the best leaders do. Great leaders aren’t afraid to stand up for what is right and for what they believe in. If you are looking for some ideas for where to draw the line with employees, here are some of my favorites:

Team Members Who Are Only In It For The Paycheck

Getting paid for the work a professional does is an essential part of any job. But being connected to the deeper purpose behind the work that is done is essential. The best leaders don’t tolerate employees who are only there to collect the paycheck. Check out this story from an exceptional woman and leader and why she doesn’t tolerate “paycheck collectors.”

Team Members Who Don’t Want to Get Better

“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” You’re probably familiar with this John Maxwell quote. It simply means if you don’t have a growth mindset and aren’t growing as a leader, you limit the potential of your team.  

The same should be expected of every member of a team. Each person is responsible for their own growth and development. The moment a person believes they are a finished product, it doesn’t just hurt them, it hurts the team too. One of the best ways to determine is for leaders is to introduce learning opportunities to team members and see how they engage and respond. 

Team Members Who Hurt The Culture

I define culture in the Ultimate Leadership Academy as, “The shared beliefs and values that guide thinking and behavior.” If a team member is sabotaging these shared beliefs and values, and it’s hurting the culture of your team, it’s time to move on.  

Many managers know when someone is hurting their culture but choose to tolerate it because they are a top performer. This is a scarcity mindset instead of an abundance mindset. There are so many talented people in the workforce; don’t fall for the myth that someone can’t be replaced. In fact, a compelling argument can be made that there is addition by subtraction. Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes; but only in short-term decision making.   

Closing

Team members who are only in it for the paycheck, don’t want to get better, or who hurt your culture just begins to scratch the surface of what you shouldn’t tolerate.  

Like many things in life, people deserve second chances, so your intolerance should be wrapped up in communication, candor, and care. But if the choices, actions, and behaviors don’t change, it’s time to make a change.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping improve the performance of struggling managers. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How the Best Leaders Use Brutal Facts To Their Advantage

Fact and fake confusion

Every leader should have a go-to list of what he or she considers to be steadfast rules of successful leadership. Criteria like, “set clear goals,” or “coach for growth” are used consistently; and, while our tried and true mantras are certainly important to uphold, leaders must remember to adjust and add to these guidelines.  

The current world of uncertainty requires leaders to commit to “defining reality” for their people. Napoleon famously said, ” The role of a leader is to define reality and give hope.”

Like many words today, the term reality has been hijacked by the media; primarily for reality tv shows that are supposed to provide a picture of what’s real (and more often than not are overproduced parodies with very little truth portrayed). Forget what you know about reality as it relates to television and the media; reality is defined as the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or imaginary state.  

If you are going to be a leader who defines reality, it’s time to take off the rose-colored glasses and paint an accurate picture of where your company or team is today, in light of the coronavirus.  

Most leaders don’t tell the truth 

Defining reality and telling the truth to a team is clearly the right thing to do; but, research indicates that most managers don’t do it. A recent study found that only 17% of employees report that their leaders consistently state the truth. This means that a whopping 83% of leaders aren’t doing a good job at defining reality.  

The reasons for sheltering their teams from the truth isn’t complicated. Leaders are concerned with the following: 

  1. Causing stress and worry – Leaders don’t want to create undue worry and stress on their teams since they don’t know what the future holds.
  2. Protecting themselves – By admitting the situation might not be good, it puts leaders in a vulnerable position to admit they might have made some mistakes. This could make team members lose confidence in their leader.

While these reasons make sense on the surface, there is a good chance that if leaders aren’t willing to be transparent about their current reality, the news isn’t good. However, the best leaders use their current state and situation to their advantage. Here’s how they do it and you can too:

Tap into courage

Delivering the news to a team that the current situation or forecast isn’t good isn’t an easy task. Which is why most leaders avoid it. As I tell my team and clients, “If leadership were easy, everyone would do it.”

Telling the truth and ultimately scaring or disappointing an audience of people who rely on you requires a leader to tap into his or her courage. C.S. Lewis spoke the truth about courage saying, “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at its testing point.” We all can make courageous decisions by tapping into a place deep in our hearts that allows us to be scared and move forward in spite of that fear. Like forming a habit, the more courageous decisions you make, the easier it is to be courageous. 

If you struggle with courage, start small by identifying the next step or action you need to take. Instead of scheduling an all hands-on meeting tomorrow morning, call one or two people on the team that you are close with, and tell them first. 

Communicate the brutal facts

Once you tap into your courage muscle, it’s time to communicate the brutal facts. I intentionally use the facts and not feelings because facts are stubborn things. Take the time to gather as much data and information as you can, and put together a set of facts that matter to you and your team.  

In the current environment, this could be every day. In uncertain times, you can’t communicate enough, even if the update is “there is no update.” Casey Crawford, one of the leaders I wrote about in Building the Best, is holding optional, daily, employee-wide live video calls at the end of every day to communicate the facts and answer questions from his people. While no leader is perfect, it’s a great model for any leader to follow.   

Share hope and faith

I have written a lot about hope over the last few weeks because it’s not only essential to getting our country through the Coronavirus but as a leader, you must keep your team looking forward. Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on positive outcomes. When hope is at the center of your own mind and your team’s mind, it leads to positive actions. 

As Bob Caslen said, “when hope is strong, people do not get discouraged.”

Turn reality into actions and opportunities

By communicating the facts about your current situation and sharing hope in the future, you provide the platform for things to get better. The only way things are going to get better is by having your team to help make it happen. 

When an entire team takes full advantage of their experience, expertise, creativity, and work ethic, good things tend to happen. Opportunities are uncovered, action items are created, and it gives them a fighting chance to make their current reality better one day at a time.   

Currently, in the United States families are quarantining in the face of dramatic financial uncertainty. Companies like Ford, Tesla, Apple and many others are pivoting to create necessary medical equipment. While these actions won’t stop the virus tomorrow, they are getting the country and world one step closer to beating this virus.  

Closing

If you find yourself in a position of leadership, whether that be at work or at home, now is the time to make your current reality an advantage. You are right where you are supposed to be, so lead like it.  

Stay safe and healthy but don’t stop leading!

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making victual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why Bad Leaders Fall in Love with Fear

“Don’t make decisions based on irrational fears.”


When the Coronavirus first appeared on the news, it was a distant epidemic and seemed like nothing to fear (at least for those of us outside of China). As the virus spread, everyone’s feelings evolved and eventually manifested into widespread fear as businesses closed, and stock markets plummeted.  

While we’ve been taught that fear is bad, that isn’t all true. Fear is simply an emotion of the mind and it’s triggered by the perception of danger, whether that danger is real or imagined. Leaders now have the choice to either fall in love with fear and allow it to crush their team or to use fear to fuel their future. 

Take Steven, an experienced division president of an established company, for example. As the Coronavirus threat increased, he fell in love with fear. He became consumed with reading and watching the news. In every email or conversation, he talked about the “struggle” and “how hard and difficult” times were going to be, without ever focusing on how they were going to address these challenges. His team followed suit, and at this point, all productivity and achievement have screeched to a halt.  

You see, there are two kinds of fear: rational and irrational. Steven let the irrational fear take over. 

Rational Fear

Our brains are wired to keep us safe, so not all fear is bad. Rational fear keeps us humble, teachable, and respectful of real threats. It allows us to continue to be others-centered, think powerfully, and maintain a sound mind. Rational fear knows it’s ok to experience the emotions of the mind, but not allow it to take hold of us.  

For example, the threat of danger in the current environment is real. Many people are becoming sick and dying because of the Coronavirus. Rational fear tells us it’s wise to practice social distancing, wash our hands, and work remotely.  

Irrational Fear

If we aren’t careful, rational fear can turn into irrational fear. Irrational fear can choke growth, stifle innovation, drain our courage, and paralyze us into inaction. If that wasn’t enough, it can lead to inactivity and a lethargic state of being. 

Irrational fear manifests what is feared. It turns itself into anxiety, worry, and panic that spirals of control. It only allows you to focus on what negative things “might” or “could” happen in the future. Don’t make decisions based on irrational fears.

Don’t make decisions based on irrational fears.

The most significant obstacle leaders face today is their teams falling into a cloud of irrational fear and doubt. So to help you overcome this obstacle, here are a few things you can do to mitigate these fears for your team: 

Level set on the facts

It’s going to be damn near impossible to overcome irrational fear if you are dealing with feelings over facts. Your job is to be educated on the facts of the situation to the best of your ability.  

This doesn’t mean you need to know the exact number of reported worldwide cases and deaths caused by COVID-19. It does mean establishing a baseline with your employees on their “new normal” including working from home policies, how to company is appropriately responding to the virus, and what you and the company are doing to prevent massive layoffs. 

Admit you’re concerned 

People believe leaders who show their vulnerability and admit their concern when faced with a difficult situation. Just this week, Jeff Bezos sent a company-wide letter to all employees at Amazon and he started it with a powerful statement: “This isn’t business as usual, and it’s a time of great stress and uncertainty. It’s also a moment in time when the work we are doing is most critical.”

Bezos is telling his team that he is concerned and uncertain. It’s a powerful lesson in leadership because he knows they are thinking about those things as well (in addition to working in stressful situations and putting themselves in harm’s way). To act like nonchalant would have been a massive mistake.  

Inspire action

The way forward and to help any problematic situation is through action. You can’t tell your team to do, you must inspire action. In Building the Best, I wrote about the role a leader has to play to inspire or “breathe life into” their people. 

One of the best ways to inspire action is to focus on words that remind people of their purpose and help them stay positive. Bezos did a phenomenal job of this by saying, “It’s also a moment in time when the work we are doing is most critical.”  

In recent research by Todd Herman of 29 CEO’s and how they are reacting to the Coronavirus, he found some stark differences in strategy-focused CEOs and fear-focused CEOs.

Strategy-focused CEOs are: 

  • 9 Times more likely to be shifting product/service offerings.
  • 6 Times more likely to use words like ‘action’ and ‘opportunity.’

Be thoughtful of the words you use to your team because it will help create a better reality. 

Turn to hope and courage

The antidote to irrational fear is hope. Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on positive outcomes. When hope is at the center of people’s minds instead of fear, it leads to courageous actions.  

Mark Twain famously said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Harry S. Truman shared similar sentiments when he said, “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

Have faith and rely on hope when communicating with your team. While the outcomes might not be exactly what they were a month ago, you’ll give your team the best chance for creating positive outcomes in the current situation. 

Closing

Here’s the best part about fear: you choose your thoughts and how you lead others. Are you going to level set on the facts, admit your concern, inspire others, and turn to hope or are you going to allow irrational fear to take over?  

What do you do to provide hope to your people? Do you agree?

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

Join the Next Ultimate Leadership Academy If you are ready to elevate the way you lead, join the next virtual Ultimate Leadership Academy.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making victual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How the Best Leaders Prepare for Difficult Conversations

Ever tried to have a tough conversation with someone and it went terribly wrong? Or worse, you know you need to have a difficult conversation but you hold back, only to run up against the same problem three months later?

These conversations are especially important if you are in a position of leadership. Tough conversations can be uncomfortable, but consider the alternative. You could be suppressing a person’s potential by not sharing something that could help them on their journey, ultimately stunting their professional development.

Many frameworks exist to help successfully execute these difficult conversations. Like anything, success hinges on preparation. All great leaders who thrive in having these conversations embrace the use of a three-part formula that I highlight in Building the Best

Standards + evidence + courage = direct dialogue

If you have all three parts — standards, evidence, and courage — the interactions with your team members who fail, meet or exceed the standard will happen naturally. Conversely, if one of them is weak or doesn’t exist, your tough conversation falls apart.

Setting clear standards

Imagine a police officer pulled you over for speeding, but there was no speed limit posted. Not only would you be confused, but you’d be furious because you didn’t know the ground rules. If you are going to be successful at having tough conversations, you have to set the standards first.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson University’s championship-winning football coach, has a mantra: “Best is the standard.” A standard defines what good looks like. I’ve come to realize that the very best leaders don’t just determine what “good” looks like — they define what “great” looks like.

Standards come in three forms: 

  • Policy
  • Procedure
  • Merit

Each type of standard serves a different purpose. The key is that you have not only thought out the standards of your team, but also communicated them clearly.

Facts, not feelings

There’s nothing that will derail a difficult conversation more than the lack of evidence. Be prepared with facts, not feelings, to support your perspective. The evidence should be specific, detailed and tangible.

Many managers claim they are “too busy” to spot evidence. Just walking around the office or being attentive during a meeting isn’t enough. Why? Because people are good at straightening up when the boss comes around.

Dedicate time on your calendar to proactively look for evidence. The purpose of this isn’t to seek bad behavior or find ways to micromanage. It’s to capture evidence to encourage, reinforce or improve performance.

Courage for the win

Once you have gathered evidence, then you need the most significant element of the formula: courage. Courage is simply the ability to do something that frightens you.

C.S. Lewis famously said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” Each and every virtue a leader needs to possess will meet its testing point at some time.

Most leaders aren’t comfortable with the idea of inviting a team member into a dialogue to share disapproval, which is why courage is so necessary. If you fall into this category, ask yourself this one simple question: “Will taking action help this person?” If the answer is yes, have the courage to step into the dialogue.

Improve Your Difficult Conversations: Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is published by McGraw-Hill. It was named the #1 Best New Management Books to Read by Book Authority. Learn the stories, principles, and tools to help elevate the way you lead others and have better direct dialogues.

Ultimate Leadership Academy: Join the 8-week virtual leadership development academy to elevate the way you lead. Learn more here.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Difficult Conversations FAQ’s

What elements do you need to have a difficult conversation?

If you are in a position of leadership you need these elements present:
1. Standards
2. Evidence
3. Courage

How do leaders have difficult conversations?

1. It’s important leaders have clearly defined standards (what great looks like)
2. Leaders need evidence that the standard was met or not met
3. Courage to have the conversation

How do you start a difficult conversation?

Leaders always should start a difficult conversation with a shared purpose statement to show the other person they re on the same team and not different teams.

Why is courage so important in difficult conversation?

Most people avoid difficult conversation like the plague. Because of this leaders must have courage, which means being scared and deciding to do it anyways. The only way someone gets better is by having the conversation.

4 Ways Great Leaders Instill a Growth Mindset in Others

Whether in business, athletics or any other field, achieving success doesn’t come from natural ability and intelligence alone. It comes from having a growth mindset.

Growth-minded individuals are constantly looking for ways to get a little better than they were yesterday. They aren’t afraid to take risks or put in the extra effort to become better and achieve their desired results. For successful business leaders, a growth mindset often comes naturally, with attributes like persistence, diligence and the belief that you can always find ways to improve providing a powerful drive.

But for a company to succeed, leaders need to instill this growth mindset in their employees as well. Inspiring others isn’t always easy, particularly if your employees believe that their talent level and output are fixed. However, it is far from impossible.

1. Don’t worry about your own status.

Even if you think of yourself as a growth-minded individual, you could still accidentally be creating a fixed-mindset workplace because of the way you treat others.

Author Carol Dweck writes that managers should ask themselves some key questions about how they lead: “How do you act toward others in your workplace? Are you a fixed-mindset boss, focused on your power more than on your employees’ well-being? Do you ever reaffirm your status by demeaning others? Do you ever try to hold back high-performing employees because they threaten you?”

The goal of a growth mindset is to help everyone learn and achieve more together. You shouldn’t be trying to hog all the learning and praise to yourself. Make sure that you are a learning resource and coach, rather than an authoritarian boss obsessed with maintaining a strong image.

2. Instill and promote courage. 

Psychologist Abraham Maslow famously said, “Every day we can step into growth with courage or retreat into safety.” The key word here is courage. Without people being willing to step out and do something when they are scared, it’s almost impossible to have a growth mindset. Turns out that’s something you help people develop.

Dr. Will Sparks, author of Actualized Leadership, came on the Follow My Lead Podcast and said, “It’s the person’s responsibility of whether or not they will take growth steps. You can’t claim the outcome, but you can coach and encourage them.”

Helping your employees have courage isn’t easy but using empathy to put yourself in their shoes and understand where they are on their journey is the first step. Once you use empathy, do your best to help them see the cost of not being courageous.

3. Promote personal growth.

If you truly have your employees’ best interests at heart, you won’t merely be focused on driving company growth. You will actively encourage your team members to seek learning on their own and get a little bit better each day. John Wooden famously said, “You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By becoming a little better each and every day, over a period of time, you will become a lot better.” A great way to do this is by setting goals.

“Strong goals should always promote a growth mindset,” David Trainavicius, founder and CEO of PVcase explained in a recent email conversation. “You should encourage team members to set their own personal goals in addition to the goals you have as a department or company. Encouraging employees to commit to their own personal growth and giving them opportunities to develop these skills will pay big dividends later on.”

Indeed, Trainavicius’s efforts at establishing a growth mindset have helped his company achieve astounding results in a globally competitive field. To date, thanks to his employees’ efforts, over 100 PV engineers use the company’s software in Europe, Australia and the United States.

An employee’s personal growth will allow them to develop new skills that can lead to improved outcomes for your company, as exemplified above. In my company LearnLoft, I encouraged team members to start their own podcast to cover important topics around organizational health. Through this exercise, it had them investing in their own personal growth in order to host the show.  

4. Hire from within your organization.

You need to prove to your employees that your efforts to promote a growth mindset are more than just lip service. A 2018 workforce activity study by Global Talent Monitor found that 40 percent of employees who left their job cited a “lack of future career development” as a primary motivator for quitting.

Executives must consider how their actions — especially hiring practices — reflect on their commitment to career development and a growth mindset. When new positions open up, consider hiring from within.

Helping your employees adopt a growth mindset isn’t always easy. But doing so could make all the difference for the long-term output of your team. As you help others within your organization adopt this mindset, they will be better positioned to provide meaningful contributions to your company.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

5 Critical Skills You Must Develop to Become a Great Leader

For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of being a leader. I loved achieving things as a team and the feeling of camaraderie over individual successes. There is something significant about going through a journey with others and being victorious. But I quickly found out that just because you dream about or love something doesn’t mean you are going to be great at it.

My first opportunity leading others professionally proved to be a disaster. I ended up being living proof that Jocko Willink’s quote about leadership is true.

“There are no bad teams just bad leaders.”

I failed my team, but I knew it didn’t have to end that way. I made a commitment to develop my own skills and help others develop theirs. After years of studying, practicing, applying, and writing about what the best leaders do, I am confident there are 5 critical skills every leader must develop in order to become the best leader that can be. These skills do not have to be completed in order and you will probably find that you already have a high skill level in some or most of them.

1. Coaching

All coaching interactions between you and your people should have a common theme: make an individual better, not tear them down. You should proactively be coaching an individual based on their skills. Skill is defined as “the ability to do something well.” It is imperative that you understand the four levels of skill development to best serve your people. These include; Awareness, Building Critical Mass, Accelerated Performance, and Sustained Excellence. Different tactics and techniques are necessary during your coaching conversation, dependent on where a team member is within the four levels.

But coaching doesn’t end with skills. You must go beyond focusing on skill development and contribute to the long-term success and well being of your people. Focus in on the whole person and helping them become the best version of themselves both inside and outside of work.

2. Communication

The vast majority of conflict in a work environment or any relationship can be blamed on poor communication. Many leaders do not place enough emphasis on and put enough effort into being clear communicators. When a leader or team does not properly communicate, assumptions are made. This results in people being unsure about where they stand or how they are supposed to behave. Making it a priority every day to be a great communicator and choosing to over- vs under-communicate will help avoid these issues.

3. Relationship Building

Relationships are the center of everything. As such, the relationships you build with others must be based on trust and mutual respect. Where most leaders struggle is in understanding their responsibility to earn those two things. Long gone are the days of a title earning the respect of those you lead. In today’s workplaces, a title should only be a reminder of your responsibility to earn trust and respect from your people.

4. Teaching

One of the best ways to help set people up for success in the future is to be a teacher to others. In order to do this, it requires something you probably feel you have little to give away; TIME.

Set aside time in your schedule or find time in a moment of need, but either way don’t hesitate to grab a white board and teach.

When you share your passion, competence, and experience with others, you make an impact that lasts a lifetime

If you don’t have the expertise in a particular area that needs to be taught, point people in the right direction and financially support their development.

5. Soft “Real” Skills

People love to use the term “soft” skills when referring to skills like emotional intelligence, empathy, and courage. I refer to them as REAL skills. More importantly than how they are labeled, each of them is a set of skills that can be measured and learned.

Emotional Intelligence: Is getting your emotions to work for you instead of against you. It has three key parts: Identifying emotions, understanding emotions, and managing emotions.

Empathy: How well you are able to identify with your team to understand their feeling and perspectives, in order to guide your actions.

Courage: Being scared or fearing something and deciding to do it anyways.

All three of these “Real” Skills are paramount in order to be a successful leader.

Every leader began somewhere. If you are anything like most leaders, it’s safe to say you didn’t take your job of leading others seriously enough early on. You probably just winged it or did what came naturally. This is what has created a low quality of leaders in the current workplace. The latest statistics show 60% of new leaders fail within the first 18 months of their job. Additionally, the vast majority of people don’t have confidence in the leaders they currently have.

In order for you to excel as a leader, you must work hard to understand, master, and apply these five skills on an ongoing basis.

Building the Best Leadership Workshop Do you lead a team and want to go to elevate the way you lead? Don’t miss out on the opportunity to participate in the Building the Best Leadership Workshop on June 25th in Charlotte, NC. Learn more and sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.