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In his most recent blog, my colleague Leigh Bailey described the attributes of a transformational leader, noting that the most important attribute is courage. The word courage originates from the Latin cor, meaning heart. Webster defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.”

But what does it mean to have courage as a leader? More importantly, what does it mean to have the courage to transform?

The Bailey Group has undertaken a significant transformation over the past three years, moving from a consortium of relatively independent practitioners consulting in their areas of personal expertise and passion (a charisma brand model) to a firm of consultants working together to deliver a solid value proposition to help CEOs and executives teams succeed (a Bailey Group brand model). As chief operating officer leading many of the efforts involved in this transformation, I have firsthand knowledge of the courage needed to succeed. Here is what I have found:

  • Courage is having the guts to envision a future that is different than the past or present, moving out of your comfort zone and the relative security of the status quo.
  • Courage is having countless conversations with other leaders to impart a vision, listening and responding to the challenges and concerns raised, and continuing to move it forward.
  • Courage is acknowledging the risks of change, both known and unknown, and not letting them become obstacles.
  • Courage is moving forward without full certainty of success but with the conviction and determination necessary to persevere.
  • Courage is knowing when to abandon a particular strategy, deal with the consequences and find a better strategy.
  • At times courage is standing alone and garnering the strength and fortitude needed to move ahead from within.

All this is not to suggest that I have demonstrated consistent courage throughout the past three years—at best it shows up 70 percent of the time. I am human. But without courage, I would be in a very different place personally and professionally than I am today.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

– Andre Gide

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