The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “bold” in part with these three definitions:
- not afraid of danger or difficult situations
- showing or needing confidence, or lack of fear
- very confident in a way that may seem rude or foolish
Great leaders are bold. They are fearless, especially when it comes to standing their ground on the mission. They take actions and they take risks that others will not. They have the courage and put it to action. Most importantly, they do it all in a way that is brave. They tend to do things that others wish they had the courage to do but don’t. Or, won’t.
Bold leaders challenge standard approaches, and they create an atmosphere around them of continual improvement. The status quo is never acceptable. Bold leaders do everything possible to achieve the mission, and they are gifted at getting others to go beyond their self-perceived limitations. They energize other people to take on challenging tasks. They instinctually recognize when situations require change, and they have the courage to drive those changes forward.
One time I heard someone say, “If you’re not being sued, you’re not being bold enough.” This was in reference to being an entrepreneur that is a “disruptor”. The point is…if you’re not feeling resistance and pressure, you’re not being bold. Bold leaders are always getting pushback and pressure from others. Bold leaders make their competition nervous. They are the type of people that make waves. They can create awkward situations. They like to break ranks when the truth needs to be told. They don’t beat around the bush.
So, as a leader, here are what I think are a few tricks of the trade you can consider to be more “bold”:
- Make Results A Priority. At Credo, we say “Results Matter”. That’s simply because they do. It’s not arguable, in my opinion. That doesn’t mean that the way you go about things and your effort level aren’t important because they are. But, in the end, Results Matter. Bold leaders are willing to take on difficult and challenging goals, and they know how to hold themselves and others accountable to results. Try inviting your team to propose two “game-changing” goals they would like to see your group pursue. Things that are hard instead of easy, and where the results are easy to measure and determine.
- Be Innovative. Bold leaders are always looking for new, smarter ways to help the team increase both productivity and quality. Most innovation challenges existing practices, processes, and approaches. Put forth the hard questions that challenge the status quo. Enlist the help of other team members and challenge them about a fresh new way to accomplish something.
- Dedicate yourself to the mission (and wear it on your sleeve). I think Walt Disney was a bold leader. He didn’t say he was in the movie business, the theme park business or even the entertainment business. Walt’s mission was: “We are in the happiness business.” I think it may be hard to appreciate how bold this statement of purpose was in his time. Back then, no one was thinking about a business this way, and many felt his mouse, and later his theme park ideas, were more than bold, but wild and far-fetched. Make your mission clear, and lead boldly toward it.
- Screw the obstacles! If you have ever seen a bold leader, you know that they are so focused on the mission that the obstacles don’t even seem to be on their radar. In a way that makes them seem so confident that they almost seem reckless. Foolish? Or bold? Remember, results matter. Let the results dictate your judgment. When you have a clear mission, the obstacles seem temporary and are worth conquering. Henry Ford said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” I think that is why others see obstacles so clearly because they don’t see the mission clearly enough. When the mission is clear, the obstacles become blurry. When the mission isn’t clear, the obstacles become clear. Food for thought.
- Be you. I believe you have to find success on your own terms. It is wise to learn from others and to accumulate wisdom from mentors, but you still must be confident enough in your own uniqueness and abilities. You need to be bold enough to be yourself and let your own unique qualities shine through. Don’t try to be someone else. And, don’t try to be something you’re not.
Jesus was definitely bold. He didn’t mumble or whisper his message to the world. He didn’t ask anyone for permission (like the high priests) before speaking or taking action. In fact, just about everything he did was bold. He brought back people from the dead. He healed lepers. He directly contradicted the most senior of Jewish leaders. When he was 12 years old, he even walked into the temple and started teaching scripture! I am not sure there was anything bold that he didn’t do. In the end, he used his very brutal and very public execution to complete his message. That was certainly bold. He never apologized, but he never acted arrogant or condescending. He was speaking the truth, and he refused to compromise. He was bold. His example to us is one of pure and consistent leadership.