Through my time as a university student, my successful dive into stock markets drove many of my friends to seek my advice, guidance, and instruction in regard to delving into the field. As I began to host informal informational sessions for these interested peers, I recognized the inherent role of leadership that I was assuming. For these friends, the direct result of their fledgling trading would undoubtedly be shaped by my ability to effectively teach, inspire, and guide them in their new forays. I assumed this responsibility with great care, and though my initial jump as a leader was met with some anxiety, I relished in the idea of sharing my knowledge, creating concise instructions, and leading others to success. At that moment, I felt a sense of courage, and a personal commitment to successfully fulfill the professional goals of my newly forged teammates.
Post-matriculation, with vast personal experience trading within the global markets, my entrepreneurial and leadership motivations were parlayed via the launch of my company, Samuel & Co. Trading. Growing my team to include talented operational support staff, dynamite traders, and eager professionals, I led the evolving team to a position of confidence, ready to tackle any challenge ahead. With a particular focus on cultivating an effective, bold, and courageous leadership style, I dedicated great consideration to becoming an exceptional leader. With a continued commitment to setting a positive example for my team, clients, and general public, I valued all experiences that helped me forge effective professional relationships.
Amid times of relative normalcy, exhibiting courage as a leader can be manifested as boldly looking forward, championing evolution and change, and motivating team members to maintain commitment to perfecting their roles within an organization. However, in times of duress, including during the current global COVID-19 pandemic, professional courage requires completely different thought processes, ethical considerations, and an unwavering focus on the wellness, safety, and long-term success of team members. As a seasoned leader navigating the proverbial “new normal”, I often consider the role that courage plays in my decision making.
Courage, A Mission-Critical Quality
In the entrepreneurial space, leaders must inherently express courage from the initial stages of developing a company, brand, product, or service organization. Prior to building a juggernaut in any bespoke field, entrepreneurs must courageously announce their unwavering confidence in their product, service, or brand. Without this inherent bold confidence, fledgling entrepreneurs would not be able to bestow similar feelings to their startup teams, integral to building a desired professional atmosphere. Inherently, in order for startups to even get off the ground, courage must be exhibited by the entrepreneur behind the company. In my own experience, courage was especially critical in the inception phase of developing Samuel & Co. Trading. Branching out on my own, with no proverbial safety net to fall back on, committing to developing a company that would then be responsible for the potential financial success of clients required confidence, belief in my trading strategies, courage to share this belief with others, and the business savvy needed to operate successfully.
For effective leaders within any professional sphere, not limited to entrepreneurs, there are a few key qualities that need to be exhibited to maximize success, rendering them mission-critical. Courage, manifested as an ability to lead without hesitation, boldly create standards for team members, and ability to follow through when team members do not meet those standards, is integral for daily operational success of any business. In the case of limited courage, then, it can be surmised that leaders would not be able to maximize strategies, implement standards, or enforce rules.
Appropriately Exuding Courage
In my own professional experiences, I have found that team members respond positively to a leader who exudes confidence, but retains professionalism. While this may slightly vary between various industries, finding an appropriate balance to exhibit leadership, courage, and boldness can inspire team members to remain motivated to excel within their roles, grow within a company, and share the breadth of success created by the team. When building my bespoke training modules for Samuel & Co. Trading, I worked alongside trusted peers to develop the most effective programming for clients. While this process was collaborative in nature, I did inherently possess thoughts about the structure of programming that I was not willing to budge on. With a wholehearted belief in those specific facets of the modules, I did have to stand up for those beliefs, share the importance of the beliefs with doubting team members, and exude the courage to boldly forge ahead with those ideas.
In times of uncertainty, appropriately exuding courage as a leader can be parlayed by the leader’s ability to provide comfort, motivation, and concise instructions for team members. For example, during the shuttering of a local branch of a large-scale business, a courageous Manager may choose to focus on ensuring that all potentially affected team members have the resources needed to change branches, to motivate team members about ways to successfully move forward, or to come up with a successful plan for all employees to remain unaffected by structural changes. While the leader may not always be able to circumvent specific orders from corporate boards, showcasing courage can be as simple as providing the tools to create a “best case scenario” in an otherwise difficult situation.
How To Spot Professional Courage
While effective leaders do not always divulge the myriad of difficulties that lead them to particular outcomes, plans, or actions, recognizing professional courage lies in paying attention to the nuances of character, and ability to imagine yourself navigating the same concerns as a particular leader in question. While I make it a mission statement to always be honest with my team, an innate aspect of my courageous leadership style imparts a level of safety for my team members, which results in me shielding them from unnecessary worries when possible. With an understanding that sharing all potential issues with the entire team would inhibit productivity, diminish positive morale, and otherwise impact the general atmosphere, my choice to independently resolve various issues means that team members do not always get to witness bold and courageous actions on my behalf. However, they see the positive results of my leadership, decision making, and entrepreneurial style. While some may see the results are mere “gifts”, or solely the result of “good old fashioned hard work”, others may recognize the notion that positive professional results are often the result of struggle, conflict, or courageous leadership enacted in an effective manner.
During times of duress, this professional courage may be easier to spot, as it is often forward-facing. As team members openly worry about the stability of their jobs, the future of their companies, and the general direction forward, they may ask more questions, rightfully demand more transparency, and outwardly communicate their need for future planning. For effective leaders amidst the pandemic, courage is measured by the ability to thoughtfully and honestly bestow information, provide meaningful insight about moving forward, and develop a plan for all employees to follow. As somewhat of a spokesperson for the executive portion of a company, the courageous leader can be spotted in times of duress as the to-go person for all answers, directions, and motivation.
As the individual responsible for leading my team through changes caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, I have to courageously navigate an otherwise uncharted territory, provide reassurance for my team, and provide a pathway to moving forward for all parties. If I do not move forward with courage, standing by my decisions with unwavering confidence, my team will undoubtedly pick up on this floundering, and will be impacted negatively as a result. Thus, in order to showcase strength and courage, I have to be able to now set standards of operation throughout all stages of the pandemic, reassure people while still being honest to maintain a trustworthy relationship with staff, maintain a semblance of calm, and communicate all actionable plans to provide team members with tasks to perform amidst the pandemic.
Professional Courage As A Statistic
Throughout the modern professional sphere, various entities have studied leadership styles, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the qualities that create effective professional results. Though various industries benefit from different leadership styles, and there are certainly anomalies in terms of inherent qualities, learned skills, and successful leadership, many studies tout courage as an important facet of effective professional leadership.
According to Harvard Business Review’s “Courage As A Skill” publication, the author touts professional courage as a learned skill, rather than an innate characteristic that may, or may not be a part of a particular individual’s personality makeup. According to the author, who interviewed over 200 business leaders to gain firsthand insight into this topic, “business courage is not so much a visionary leader’s inborn characteristic as a skill acquired through decision-making processes that improve with practice.” If this is the case, it can be surmised that effective leaders can champion their own courage through carefully curated risk taking that emboldens their behavior over time. In considering my own professional trajectory, I can certainly attest to the idea that engaging in boldly courageous actions becomes easier over time. As a fledgling entrepreneur, I certainly considered the majority of risks to be much more potentially damaging. As time moved forward, and my initial risks were met with professional rewards, I became more intuitively aware of judging my own professional savvy, and acting accordingly to my beliefs. Eventually, I became a much more courageous leader.
In another thought-provoking piece, the Ivey Business Journal reports that “an effective leader must have the courage to see difficult situations through to the end and accept responsibility for the outcomes of decisions.” In any leadership role, it takes courage to outwardly accept responsibility for negative outcomes, hardships, or decisions that have gone awry. While it is easy to accept praise and accolades for positive impacts, accepting responsibility for negative outcomes proves as difficult as confidently launching the incentives that have led to the negative outcomes. Thus, a courageous leader must possess the self-awareness to understand that perfection is impossible, but creating the opportunity to learn from a mistake can bring a team closer, provide an important learning experience, and provide the insight needed to prevent a similar mistake from occurring again. Instead of attempting to minimize or hide mistakes, then, a courageous leader utilizes mistakes for the betterment of the entire team.
As an entrepreneur, business owner, stock trader, and leader, I have attempted to implement courage into daily actions, as well as large-scale ventures. By understanding the power of cultivating a courageous, bold, and forward-thinking professional atmosphere, I have chosen to lead with those factors, personifying them as often as possible. Through the effective marriage of insight, knowledge, and calculated risk taking, I have struck an appropriate balance that has allowed me to build my confidence in my own risk taking. Through ongoing trial and error, my professional courage has been cultivated, and I have been able to manifest this evolving strength in a manner that benefits my entire team. In essence, years of working diligently to perfect my leadership skills has prepared me for taking the reigns throughout this unprecedented time. Showcasing strength, transparency, and a commitment to my team members, I am now able to successfully, courageously, and effectively provide my team with the needed direction to navigate the ongoing pandemic in a safe, productive, and positive manner. Developing strength of character, professional courage, and unwavering professional convictions has allowed me to step up to the plate at an integral time, and to lead my team to the other side.
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