What does bold leadership look like?


By Chris Gandy

Of all our Touchstones, the one that tends to take most explaining is Bold Leadership….

“What do you mean by bold leadership?”

“How do I know whether I am a bold leader or not?”

…are two of the common questions we are asked.

To make our position on this Touchstone a little clearer, here are some behaviours  we believe bold leaders display in their everyday work routines.

Being on the same page as their audience – Few behaviours alienate a Chief Executive from their board, management team, employees, volunteers and stakeholders than an inability to speak the same language! Bold leaders know that for  their plan, strategy or vision to be embraced, they need to couch it in terms the audience understands and is comfortable with.

Practice being a 180 degree manager – Bold leaders are not “fence sitters” and deal with issues across the people management spectrum. They make sure high performers get the recognition the deserve, those that are coasting are motivated to stretch themselves and underperformers are coached and supported and, as a last resort, let go.

Know the risks and have strategies to deal with them – Bold leaders do take risks! BUT they only act after thoroughly identifying and analysing these risks and making sure sound mitigation strategies in place.

Deal only with the facts – Leaders can become immersed in opinion, gossip and rumour. Bold leaders know the relevant data to trust and remain wedded to the  “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” mantra.

Cultivate evangelists for change – Few bold leaders are truly successful on their own. Most realise the critical importance of creating champions for the cause across the entire organisation.

Engage the squeaky wheels – While the cultivation of evangelists is important, bold leaders don’t ignore the naysayers and squeaky wheels in the hope they eventually will go away. They engage with them often one on one to contain any damage they may create and ensure they are turned around. They also recognise that “converted squeaky wheels” have the potential of becoming the best evangelists.

Fight the good fight – This was my High School motto and it has remained with me ever since. It is all about sticking to your guns when it matters and graciously backing down when appropriate.

Let  their results do the talking – Bold leaders know the most effective way to build credibility is via their accomplishments. A winning track record engenders confidence and trust in their followers.

Forget the revolution, go for evolution – No matter how positive, bold and transformative an initiative is, if it is overly disruptive to the organisation and is seen as a “bridge too far” by staff, it is doomed to failure. Bold leaders recognise that slow incremental steps are required to make change sustainable in the long term.

Remain true to your vision – Prevarication and expedience are often mid to long term killers. Bold leaders show people they believe in something good and are prepared to fight for it.

Build buy-in at ALL levels – It is far too easy to fall into the trap of engaging with one’s direct reports and hoping the rest of the organisation will join in via osmosis. This seldom happens. Bold leaders know that effective strategies are imperative to make sure that all involved with the organisation – board, executive, staff, volunteers – are equally committed to a course of action

Avoid inertia at all costs  – We deliberately left this till last because inertia really will kill the bold leader in all of us. And it is so difficult to avoid. Things are going OK – so don’t rock the boat. Status Quo is such a comfortable zone – and after all we have had a difficult couple of years so lets take our foot off the pedal. These thoughts are hard to resist. Bold leaders understand that if they are not moving forward, the organisation is actually going backwards. They continually provide the spark and the energy to propel the organisation onwards and upwards. If that spark is lost, leaders need to seriously reconsider their positions.

Do you have other examples of “bold leadership behaviours?” If so we would be delighted to hear from you via our comments section below.

About the author: Chris Gandy MAPS is a Director of Cause and Effective (www.causeandeffective.info),  a group dedicated to assisting cause-based organisations make and even greater impact.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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