Bold & Courageous Leaders Needed

By: Erin Terry, Director of Marketing, Executive Development Associates

Have you been fortunate enough to work for leaders who embody courage? What does that look like? How did it make you feel? If put in a similar leadership situation, could you display the same level of courage to lead your team, department, or organization?

I have worked both for and alongside many courageous leaders (and some not so courageous ones) at various points in my career. Courageous leadership sets an overall tone of reassurance and confidence that ripples throughout the organization. At times, it can also feel unsettling. A good example of this is when a courageous leader has to deliver difficult feedback. Having been on the receiving end of constructive feedback a few times, I can tell you that it doesn’t always feel good when you are hearing it for the first time. It’s easy to become defensive, hurt, or offended by such comments. It might even make you cry (been there, done that!). However, years later, I look back and realize how much courage it took for my leaders to deliver such feedback in the first place and that their intentions were not to make me feel bad; they were trying to help me become a stronger, more capable leader myself. The uncourageous approach would have been for them to have lied and/or shied away from delivering the constructive feedback in the first place. I have worked for leaders like this too, which at times was even more frustrating. Leaders that lack courage are not true leaders.

From working with authors Bonnie Hagemann, John Maketa, and Simon Vetter on their most recent book, Leading with Vision, I’ve learned quite a bit about what truly sets courageous leaders apart from the pack, and how to continuously build this skillset. Setting a compelling vision takes courage in three important ways. First, leaders must have the courage to be bold: to chart a new course, take risks, and potentially fail. Second, leaders must have the courage to be vulnerable. Third is the courage to stand firm, which is intrinsic to being bold and vulnerable, but is a quality that is usually called upon more often on a day-to-day basis.

In order to comprehend, in detail, what it means to effectively engage everyone in the workforce around a vision and who is doing this successfully, it’s important to examine courage and its impact on vision. And remember that courage is twofold—the courage to be bold and the courage to be vulnerable.

One of the leaders that the authors interviewed when compiling research for Leading with Vision demonstrated perseverance, particularly in the relentless pursuit of an idea, despite significant resistance and difficulties. After meeting Manuel Grenacher, the CEO of Coresystems, Simon Vetter learned that Manuel first started a company to make money so that he could afford to continue his college education. In his last year at the university, he had ten employees writing code and building software for companies.

People who meet Manuel immediately get the impression that he is not your average guy. In fact, Manuel is the type of person who is constantly “looking up”— scanning the corporate horizon and searching for opportunities. Shortly after graduating, he realized that the existing approach to on-site technical customer service was inadequate for the needs of most people, particularly businesspeople. Technology is now so pervasive that there is almost no aspect of our life, at work or home, that isn’t impacted when the technology fails. And when it fails, we want it fixed, and we want it fixed right now. Manuel was aware of plenty of enterprise application platform software products, but no real solutions for providing fast and user-friendly customer service. So, he decided to create his own solution, and with that, he created a new market.

Manuel named the company Coresystems and created a vision to be the leading field-based technical customer service organization. He recalled the early days thoughtfully. The company’s vision was ‘We make core moments, because customer service should be a core moment.’ In his opinion, customer service is one of the few remaining competitive differentiators. They started with an idea that became a vision, and today Coresystems employs 160 people across the globe, utilizes 150,000 field service representatives, and provides customer service for over 7,000 companies.

This incredible journey from nothing to a global business is a story that Manuel has shared thousands of times. He firmly believed that the big, established players were not doing all that was possible and then created a market with a solution that revolutionized customer service within his industry. It took a lot of courage. It was bold. And with the courage to be bold came great success.