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What, SPECIFICALLY, do GREAT leaders DO differently?

LESSON FIVE on Bravery in the Tilt Leadership Model

Category: Courage Meta-Factor

Definition of Courage: The ability to face risk with confidence and integrity, creating
momentum for fair and just action.

Proficiency #2. Engages respect through personal will. (Strength=Bravery)

The leader who commands respect, does so through a vitality and energetic commitment to
what they believe strongly in their conscience. Bravery always includes some form of
vitality, boldness and persistent strength is the face of risk.
The Two Sides of Instinct

Bravery is a guttural and often swift act that has some kind of risk, is usually instinctual and
comes from a deep knowing of what is right in the moment. Stories about bravery are
usually heroic stories about someone who had a split-second instinct that caused them to do
something that advances good, but much more clearly about learned character and a
commitment to doing what is right that comes from a deep place inside oneself that is
already there. If you don't have solid character, the ability to do the brave act in that split
second will not exist. So, the brave person has been prepared for the event long before it
presents itself.

I am reminded of two stories that illustrate both sides of this point. I was recently reading
an article about sailing in one of our cruising magazines and read a story written by a man
who had NOT done the brave thing in the moment of crisis. While sailing in the dark at
night, he had gone below decks to fix a cup of coffee and when he came up he saw that a
huge carrier was passing directly in front of them and a crash into the the huge vessel was
imminent. He screamed below to his son who quickly scrambled up to the deck, but the
son's girlfriend was asleep in her bunk tucked behind a lee cloth and did not come up in
time for the sidelong crash into the carrier. The captain, in a moment of fear, dove off of the
sailboat before it crashed into the carrier without a second thought to what would happen to
the other two aboard. Thankfully, his story ended well, and all of them survived, but as he
swam back to the broken sailboat, he described the agony of guilt swarming his soul and I
doubt he will ever be the same again.
The other story that always comes to my mind when I think of bravery is the story reported
in the news a few years ago about a heroic event that happened on the Chicago subway. A
young man tumbled onto the track from an epileptic attack of convulsions. Another man
saw the danger to the young man, saw the subway approaching and decided he had to take
action. In a split second he made a decision to risk his own life to save the young man who
would have surely lost his life if not for the bravery of this heroism. He flung himself on top
of the young man to pin him down in the middle of the tracks while the subway raced ahead
over them. Both survived. In a final testament to his solid character, the hero would not
accept credit for his decision as anything other than a decision to do the right thing. I found
myself wondering if I would have made that choice and I am not sure that I could have. I
was recently in Atlanta and decided to take a good look at the tracks, pondering the choice I
would make given the same set of circumstances. These stories make a person think.

The Core Principles of Bravery:

1. Principle of Vitality: Demonstrating bravery always includes a form of strong energy

that emanates from the gut of the individual. It comes from a primal and physical instinct
that promotes survival of the strongest. That goes without saying. Yet recently, I've been
thinking that bravery can actually be even more powerfully demonstrated through a more
quiet brand of strength. It takes even more fortitude and commitment to exercise internal
strength as it does to act outwardly. Think of the courage of Victor Frankly, Nelson Mandela
or Gandhi, whose strength is of the most rare intrinsic bravery.

2. Principle of Bold Morality: Bravery also implies that the action is taken in the face of
personal risk of some kind through bold choices taken to advance the greater good of
something meaningful. It includes a morale implication because we would not consider
someone brave when they do something that is not good, but is instead promoting self-
interest. One can be bold in pursuing self-advancement at the expense of others but this
would never be considered an act of bravery. This shows up through actions that
demonstrate unbridled vices, like greed, vanity, envy or pride.

3. Principle of Persistence: Inherent in every form of bravery is the consistent

commitment to tenaciously moving the greater good forward in ways that may fly in the
face of popular opinion. Tenacity is required to trust one's gut that you have an idea or view
worth sticking with, despite the discouragement of others. This quality of bravery is more
like a slow boil and often grows stronger over time as one invests personal energy into the

So, how does the leader demonstrate bravery in climate & culture?

Bravery can be demonstrated through leadership in both short-term and long-term

momentum toward some mission. The leader who needs to be popular will not do well in
this strength, by virtue of the fact that one must be willing to put approval from others
aside to advance what is right and good. I am reminded of the last two decades of
discouragement that came my way as I posed my ideas for Tilt to others. Most people in
corporations and even in the psychology domain were not interested in exploring how
building virtues and mitigating vices through balance could be connected with performance.
But because I had tested my theories in practical implementation through my own
leadership and experience a remarkable phenomenon connected to innovation produced by
my teams, I forged forward despite the lack of support from others. They would say "No
one will be interested in measuring character strengths like integrity and trust." I would
think to myself "Well, we are all in trouble then, so I have to stay after my day
we may care and I will be ready." That day has come. And it was my brave and bold
persistence over two decades of work that will help change the world in some way. Even if
my research only makes a dent, then I will have the knowledge that I did my part. I can't
explain the tenacity inside me, but I always know what I need to do next and that it is a
long process that has unfolded in remarkable ways over time.

The Systemic Challenge:

In most organizations today, bravery is critical. In the 1990s I once learned from a wise
futurist named Dr. Kami, that we should "learn to love the gorillas in our organizations". He
said that they are the only ones who are willing to tell us when we are wrong or that we
need to change direction. I am still an advocate of that advice today. If we don't reward
those who give us bold input to our decisions, we put ourselves and our leadership agenda
at great risk. We need feedback anywhere we can get it and should place high value on
those who are willing to take personal risk for the good of the whole.

Interesting Learning for this lesson: (Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, Dr. Susan
In her popular book, Dr Jeffers presents 10 Dynamic Techniques for Turning Fear,
Indecision, and Anger into Power, Action, and Love. I am still reading it, so the ten steps
will be added later!

Quote by Thucydides, ancient Greek philosopher.

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and
danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

Questions for thought:

Think about the last time you were faced with a high risk decision. Did you do what is right,
or did you do what protected your own selfish needs? We all need to keep thinking about
that one so we are prepared for the split second moment when our character will be
required to call the shot.

NEXT time:

Meta-Factor of COURAGE and Proficiency #6: Confidence.

Pam Boney, Lead Instructor

Tilt Academy for Innovative Leadership
Copyright 2010