The Forgotten Courage

What type of person is more valuable to an organization?  A highly compensated and strategically wise CEO who can’t forgive and isn’t trusted, or anybody else in the organization who has the emotional maturity to apologize, forgive, and admit mistakes.

Perhaps the answer is both, but the question is often why is strategic leadership often considered to be more valuable to an organization than basic human decencies.  Courage by some is measured by the degree of financial risks, commitment measured by time and sacrifice, and accountability measured by deadlines and deliverables. But what if the future performance of a team is dependent on the leader learning how to forgive.  How is that deliverable measured?

Take the tale of two Senior Vice Presidents in a prominent organization.  Both earned their respective positions through competencies and commitment.  One, has managed to climb to great heights and retain their basic human qualities.  They leave meetings having set firm expectations and leaving the team motivated to meet goals.  The second, has climbed to great heights, but verbally abuses people in meetings. They display anger, frustration, and seem to get their energy by publicly humiliating people.  They are just flat mean.

The quandary is how, and why some leaders are able to achieve admirable growth and success that includes a human conscience for decency, and how and why some leaders give it up along the way.  It’s quite interesting as a coach to see why some notable leaders who pride themselves on being courageous, will not confront the challenges between their ears. Instead of courageously accepting an apology, the make excuses for why an apology is not good enough.  When a team member apologizes for a mistake, some leaders find it better to revisit the mistake and the cost of the consequences than to just say “apology accepted” because that allows them to avoid their inability accept an apology. It’s absolutely fascinating. Some leaders who can’t forgive make up a persona of “get on my wrong side and you’re done” because they are not courageous enough to forgive.  

Some leaders are respected because they are universally respectable, and some leaders are respected only so nobody gets in trouble.  And where respect really matters shows up in team performance. Leader one leaves their team motivated to take initiative and go above and beyond.  Leaders two leaves their team with one goal; be very very careful. Do the minimum to meet the goal because taking risks hurts. The goal is not to meet the goal, the goal is to not get chastised in meetings.

The bigger challenges in ones leadership journey is to maintain a level of human decency while earning their way to great accomplishments within the organization.  Don’t forget that forgiveness and accepting apologies is equally courageous as a million dollar strategy. Developing into a trusted leader by being transparent takes as much guts as defending financials to stockholders.  The results of showing courage between your ears are better performing teams, sustainable respect, and a motivating cultures. The trick is to not forget the place and value of basic leadership decency.