A small plaque with those words sits on the desk in my home office — at times almost taunting me to get out of my comfort zone and stretch for more. Bold is defined as “showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.” In my best moments, I know that my organization’s mission, and the individuals who stand to benefit when we achieve that mission, call for me to be bold in my leadership. In my less confident moments, I recognize that it can be a fine line between brave and stupid.
“Be Bold” sounds well and good, but how exactly does a leader exemplify that characteristic… without crossing into “what was she thinking” territory? Well, first, if you are not willing to take any risks, you might as well hang up your jersey. That is not what leadership is about. The trick is to take calculated risks. Too often, I think leaders feel as if the safest (or only) strategy is simply to keep doing what has worked in the past… but is it? I’m guessing Kodak would beg to differ.
Bold is about building for the future. It is about making decisions that, while perhaps difficult and counterintuitive in the short term, position the organization for success in the long term. And that rarely means following the crowd. Yes, you should listen to the experts and consider the trends — across multiple fields —through the lens of the unique gifts and graces of your organization. I see too many leaders leaving that last part out of their decision-making, and from my perspective that is the most important ingredient in bold leadership! What does your organization uniquely bring to the table… what seemingly disparate variables are you able to connect in new ways… that positions you to take bold action?
Seeing things that others don’t see is what allows you to be bold in your leadership. And the best way to see what others don’t see is to look at unique combinations of information — scenarios “the experts” are looking at, along with the individualized experiences and expertise of those within your organization. It is your people, and their unique insight, that enables you to step forward with bold confidence. It is not the false bravado of “what if,” it is the steady assurance of “we can!” It is confidence in the combinational wisdom of your team that allows a leader to courageously assume the risks of bold action. As a leader, how can you not reach for what your organization is uniquely equipped to achieve?