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If you compared the important traits of every leader, you would have as many traits as the big box of Crayola crayons. You know that box, that the spoiled kid down the street had with 120 different color crayons.

Unfortunately we humans don’t have 152 crayons in our boxes. We’re more like the 8 crayon Crayola box. Among those eight colors or traits, great leaders share mandatory colors, like no crayon box would be complete without the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow.

No great leader exists without the courage crayon.

What does courage mean in terms of leadership? Does it mean the willingness to dive off a cliff with no knowledge of what lies beneath the waves? No, that’s not courage… that’s stupidity.

Does it mean not being afraid? Of course not, the absence of fear is stupidity. Courage is taking the right actions in the presence of fear.

What are the fears that a leader commonly faces that they must learn to overcome? Here are five common fears:

  1. Fear of Being Wrong – Leaders are humans and humans make mistakes. Exceptional leaders do not avoid action because they fear making mistakes. They take calculated risks. Great leaders are not afraid of having their plans challenged, admitting that a team member’s input improves an imperfect plan, or pivoting midstream.
  2. Fear of Being Vulnerable – Great leaders are not afraid to admit their weaknesses or their mistakes. Sharing weaknesses and mistakes models behavior that raises a good team’s effectiveness level. Leaders who model vulnerable behavior develop teams that do not sweep their mistakes under the rug and allow them to fester. Great leaders own their decisions and their results and that flows through to their teams.
  3. Fear of Discomfort – Few people relish reprimanding or terminating an employee. It’s uncomfortable. Weak leaders pretend not to know what they must do about a poor-performing team member or someone who isn’t a cultural fit on the team. Strong leaders recognize the discomfort and in spite of the fear, they address performance issues quickly.
  4. Fear of Confronting the Truth – When a company is going through difficult times when there are financial issues and possible lay-offs, weak leaders pretend that they are the only ones in the company to know the depths of the issues. Strong leaders understand that rumors are more divisive than the truth. Real leadership means confronting the truth with the team. Not being afraid to share the truth. Great leaders don’t pretend that they can keep the band together by ignoring the Yoko problem. (Okay you kids out there, most people blame the break-up of the Beatles, the greatest band that ever was, on John Lennon’s dominating wife, Yoko Ono. Look it up.)
  5. Fear of Conflict – Weak leaders want to pretend that everyone on the team should get along and that conflict is a sign that the company is in trouble. Strong leaders encourage healthy conflict. Not personal conflict, but conflict over ideas and issues. Great leaders know that a constantly improving team means there will be discomfort. The best leaders embrace some disharmony. They foster it. They provoke it.

So ask yourself, do you have the courage to confront the obstacles that await you on the path to leadership, or do you need to meet up with Dorothy to follow that yellow brick road to ask the Wizard for some courage.

Want a safe, non-judgmental place to talk about your leadership fears and learn how to confront them? Contact me and find out what it’s like to be challenged in a safe, non-judgemental place.