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Taking your mask off

“He who believes is strong; he who doubts is weak. Strong convictions precede great actions.” Louisa May Alcott

‘The Knowing-Doing Gap’ (Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, HBS Press, 2000) is a great book about how most people in work actually talk a good game but actually fail to put into practice what they promise. Therefore, being a courageous leader is not something you talk about it is something you do – and you do it based on a clear sense of what you stand for, what you can contribute and a willingness to consistently live this out.

The truly great HR Leaders – whilst they may be thin on the ground – actively and publicly demonstrate personal leadership as well as HR leadership; they are willing to challenge others and take decisions, even at personal risk and seek ways to empower those people around you to lead.

Why is courageous leadership so important for HR today? Well step back and just consider all the challenges and opportunities bombarding your desk on a weekly basis – the chances are they are quite different from what they would have been five years ago and certainly ten years ago. Therefore, HR cannot apply old remedies or static thinking to new and emerging people issues.

If HR has the desire to be on the organisation’s ‘top table’ it needs to become an equal partner driving the change rather than being a passenger! At CourageousHR we would go as far as to say that HR has never played a more important role in business than they do today. In a world in which companies can – and should – draw on human capital as a major source of competitive advantage HR is in pole position to make human capital essential to the very survival of business – but we have to grab this opportunity!

Quality not quantity

Authentic leaders do exactly what they feel is both right and important – AND they do it consciously. S Covey, 1999

Courageous Leadership is not about imitation nor is it defined by the scale of the opportunity but by the quality of your response. In other words, when you display courage and conviction you instill trust as well as inspire, guide and support others.

How do you go about becoming more courageous? Well believe it or nor courage is something that you can learn through awareness and practice. Just consider the following four simple ‘golden rules’ to becoming more courageous:

  1. Become more self-aware and open to new challenges and opportunities
  2. Remain vigilant to what you are doing and saying so that your actions and words consistently match your values
  3. Be mindful of what is going on around you and challenge behaviours and actions which runs counter to the expressed and implicit values and vision of your organisation
  4. Seek out others across your organisation who display leadership courage, to support one another.

What this means in practice

Courageous Leadership is less about you as a HR professional and more a statement about what you personally stand for. Therefore consider how true the following statements relate to you and what more you could do to become more courageous:

  • I am strong enough to have my own independent thought - you don’t fall into the trap of ‘group think’.
  • Being a HR partner is more about mindset, not skill set. 97% of strategic role effectiveness is explained by the person and the role – the other 3% by structure and budget.*
  • I am clear about my value and purpose so am able to effectively cope with uncertainty and change – you are not knocked off course by changing events and yet are able to review and evaluate alternatives in a considered manner, if necessary
  • I recognise that leadership is as much about ‘followership’ as it is leading from the front – you recognise that your power and influence comes from your credibility and not your title so you are flexible in the role you play
  • I am willing to speak out and challenge where necessary – essential if HR is to have the credibility it needs to deliver the strategic value that organisations are clamouring for
  • I am an eager and public champion of all employees – you recognise that ultimately it is the people which are your organisation’s competitive advantage
  • I have a passion to involve and empower others - the key to your success is that you are not seeking to generate blind loyalty but to empower people at all levels and in all parts of the organisation.
  • I have the vision to drive through change – you understand the strategic direction of the organisation, the people implications and you have the strength to deliver the changes you are responsible for.

To find out how CourageousHR can support the development of your HR Function please email [email protected] to arrange a call to discuss your specific development needs.