It is normal to interpret the courage that a leader must bring to task as equaling a caring enough to confront and a willingness to make the tough calls. In this portion of our class on leadership, we address two less obvious occasions that may mandate courage on the part of the leader. In general terms, these are referred to as the courage to accept and the courage to release.
When I use the term, “the courage to accept”, I refer to the difficulty most leaders have with accepting compliments. After addressing the International Association of Police Chiefs, a gentleman approached me and he shared the difficulty he had at this particular point. The number of people he represented is legion. Under the guise of humility, many of us shrug off, or reject compliments. What we fail to factor into our leadership equation is the feeling that is created by our lack of receiving the compliment. What we may interpret as humility is what they may experience as rejection or indifference.
Personally, this has been a huge issue for me. My standard response to a compliment, in the past, was that a power greater than myself made the difference to which they referred. Although that was true, my wife shared with me that it might be appropriate to add, “You know I really appreciate your affirmation, because, I have been working on this particular point. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me.” My wife was right. It takes a lot of courage for others to compliment some of us who appear to be more confident than we are. Perceived rejection of their compliment, as opposed to an authentic acceptance of their compliment, will, in all likelihood, discourage them.
When I use the term, “the courage to release”, I refer to the difficulty many of us have within the crucible that is delegation. Quite simply, it is extremely difficult for some to release control, to let go of what appears to be power. Micro-management is obvious. Our rationale might be that the issue is too critical to delegate – what I would refer to as a “glass bottle” issue. I understand that rationale, as this is a hard one for me. However, many of us refuse to release control in less volatile situations – what I refer to as “plastic bottle” issues. We should be asking ourselves, “how are they to learn.” None of us are all knowing or all doing.
The leader has three options in relationship to a task: do, drop, or delegate. If you repeatedly refuse to delegate, when the issue is a “plastic bottle”, you are not serving the person you lead or the agency you serve. The fear is that “they will make a mistake.” Some of the grandest tutorial experiences I have had in my life have been the “plastic bottle” mistakes that I have made. Sometimes, the smartest leadership-path to walk is to release some control – knowing that if they make a mistake, it is possible for that mistake to make an indelible impression upon them.
There are two examples of courage that we fail to think about. This part of our course says, “Think about them – the courage to accept compliments and the courage to release some control.”