Why Courage Matters

Following the recent launch of a “book club” with one of my clients, I have found myself re-reading Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.   Reading it several years ago, I thought it was pretty good.  Reading it now, I think that it should be required reading not only for teams but also for any individual seeking a leadership position.

While the book’s central focus is obviously directed at teams, I’m struck with implications for leadership in grappling with these concepts at a personal level.  I recently went through the first section of the book substituting every occurrence of “team” with “leader”.   Try it…the implications are not trivial.

Lencioni postulates that for teams, “no quality or characteristic is more important than trust” and further that “…trust is all about vulnerability.”  He goes on to reference vulnerability as being unafraid to admit the truth about oneself, and to do this one must have courage.

Okay, let’s test this out…

What kind of leader would you be if you had the courage:

  • to honestly admit that you do not know the answer?
  • to leave your office or conference room to go see, ask and learn from the front line staff?
  • to admit that you made a mistake?
  • to apologize?
  • to teach others how to solve problems?
  • to encourage your team in running an experiment even when you are confident that it’ll fail?
  • to suspend your judgment and inquire deeply and honestly to understand?
  • to test out new thinking and behaviors that are not consistent with and potentially not accepted by the current culture?

What kind of leader are we talking about here?  Is courage a requirement of leadership?   If your answer is “yes”, what are the implications?




One thought on “Why Courage Matters

  1. This is the kind of leader I aspire to be. The implications are huge – a shift away from Leader as Knower to Leader as Learner, which requires getting ok with the dis-comfort of being vulnerable, yet creates so much more space for others to show up with what they can contribute. It is both a relief to not have to know “the answer” but also hard to trust that what you bring to the table as a leader is not your content expertise and decision making ability but rather your ability to facilitate and coach (the HOW, not the WHAT) , and that is enough. As Brene Brown says, it is enough to show up and let yourself be seen. I think this is true for everyone, but especially for leaders. And can require enormous courage, since it is outside the comfort zone for most of us, and a different focus for skill development that can be very counter-cultural for most organizations.

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