Protecting courageous leadership in hard times

By William Seidman Over the past few weeks I’ve been working with positive deviants to develop change leadership best practices within their 3 very different organizations. Each came up with similar answers to hypothetical and real problems, calling on conventional wisdom of vision, resources, and support. I asked them if they and their colleagues knew these (since they’re conventional wisdom) and they all did. I followed up with, “Why is there is such a small amount of good leadership if everyone knows the conventional wisdom?” The consensus was that the conventional wisdom really does work in good times. It’s easy to create a vision and execute it if there is plenty of cash. The real test of great leadership takes place during bad times, when pressures are severe. This reminded me of the great Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter’s remarks on the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s freedom of speech protection. He wrote that freedom of speech only really matters when the speech to be protected is completely offensive to you. Speech that doesn’t offend doesn’t need protection; the same is true for leadership. Leadership matters most during the times when it is most difficult to be a leader, when unpopular decisions (whether to risk, for example, current survival for the possibility of a much better future) must be made.  This courageous leadership — which can be tough to sustain in hard times —  is what we work to nurture and protect.]]>

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