Introduction and a Word About Courage (First in a Series of Seven)
Business leadership is challenging these days! As a business and technology leader, I see that one compounding factor for leaders today is technology. On the positive side, there are so many technology enablers today that didn’t exist a few short years ago that we can be empowered with tools and processes that were simply unavailable or unaffordable a few years ago. The downside is that there are so many technologies to choose from and so many people with opinions about how to do it that selecting a path and executing your plan can be a challenge!
Take a look at the influence technology has had on your company and your leadership! Chances are you see some of these things:
- Your company’s Brand Promise is more dependent on technology
- Your Customers and Leaders in your business are more tech-savvy
- Tech innovation is accelerating in the marketplace
- The list of technology vendors you rely on is expanding
- Your IT Team tech skillsets are shifting and expanding
- Your Technology Budget is constrained
- Your requirements for Financial and Tech Compliance are more rigid
Whether you are leading the whole company, a department or a small team, these are challenging things to balance. Can you relate?
As I was thinking about these challenges, I started reading a book about the Lewis & Clark expedition called Undaunted Courage by Stephen E Ambrose. It’s a great book and a great title! As a technology leader partnering with every business function to deliver value to our customers at each step of their journey, I thought to myself “I could use some ‘Undaunted Courage’ to get through the challenges I describe above and face every day! I wonder how Meriwether Lewis and William Clark did it! I wonder what I might learn from their experience to help me.”
Here’s what I found. The lessons Lewis & Clark learned on their journey over 200 years ago are just as applicable to the challenges I’m facing in my journey today!
First, A Word about Courage…
Why are Lewis and Clark described as having courage? What did they face that required courage? Does my journey in today’s technology landscape require courage? Do I need as much courage as Lewis & Clark had? Do I need more?
In some recent trade press, and at some conferences I’ve attended, I seem to be hearing more and more about the need for business and IT leaders to have courage as a key leadership trait. With all the talk, I still have had an unsatisfied feeling. “What”, I’ve asked myself, “is courage?” “Is it a sort of ‘bravado’ or fearlessness in the face of danger? What objectives am I pursuing that require courage? How do I get it when I need it? ”
It occurred to me that courage is not just a characteristic that sits out there on its own. You can’t just go get it. Webster’s Dictionary says courage is the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”. In fact, the origins of the word courage go back to the French word, “Coeur”, which means heart.
So… in its essence, courage is about the way we express the innermost feelings of our hearts in pursuit of the things we really want.
As we exercise courage, we might more readily summon it when we need it again. But different situations might require different kinds of courage. For example, I might have the courage to face an extreme physical challenge but lack the courage to have an open conversation with an associate.
Courage comes in the moments we decide to do things that are hard; to face challenges that seem daunting. Lewis and Clark encountered some daunting twists and turns in their journey, and as they faced them with purpose and determination, the necessary courage often came. In these times they learned a lot and furthered their expedition purposes.
We can also see many situations in the Lewis and Clark expedition where they did not respond in optimal ways. Did Lewis and Clark lack courage? Or did something get in the way of their hearts being in the right place to exude the necessary courage?
What follows are Five Lessons about courage that are as applicable for business leaders today as they were 200 years ago when they were first encountered and learned by the leaders of the Corps of Discovery. Behind each of these lessons, we’ll see some times when Lewis & Clark exhibited great courage, and other times where it appears they lacked courage or their courage was misguided. These are the lessons Lewis and Clark courageously learned:
- Start with Why
- Beware your Bias
- See your Guides
- Prize the Power of Good Books
- Find your North Star
Plus, if you’ll follow me through the series, I’ll reveal a surprising sixth lesson that ties all the other ones together.
Watch for my next post where we’ll discuss lesson number one – The Courage to Start with Why.