They worked from the inside out—from within themselves—making a commitment to a bigger purpose, summoning the courage to adhere to this purpose in the face of huge setbacks, and harnessing the emotional awareness to navigate the turbulence around them.  -From Nancy Koehn—Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times

The Choice to Lead in These Moments Comes from Deep Inside

There comes a time when each of us is called to stand up and lead. While few face the challenges of the individuals featured in Koehn’s excellent book, Forged in Crisis, we all face crucible moments in our personal and professional lives when the need to lead is placed in front of us. Some of us seize it, and others let the moment pass.

Watch a parent care for his dying wife in her final days with sleepless love and compassion, and you see leadership. He set the example for all of us to follow if and when we face similar circumstances. There’s no training for this moment. It comes from somewhere deep inside.

In a struggling business, it’s easy to point fingers, make excuses, and look for a way off the sinking ship. The suddenly anointed and very unprepared top executive with no experience in these types of situations eschews conventional wisdom to liquidate and decides not to let it fail. He gives everyone hope and help and lifts people on his shoulders with his passion for them and their cause. You can’t train for these moments. Nor can you act your way through them. This leadership comes from inside you.

Leading on a Small Stage

And while the big crises even on small stages are obvious moments to lead, we encounter others daily. A key is opening our eyes to seeing them and then choosing to do the right thing.

The toughest feedback discussions should be delivered with empathy and compassion.

Your frustration over someone’s costly mistake is an opportunity to build and not tear down, but you have to choose first control yourself and your natural reaction.

Go to bat for and help an underdog you encounter in your daily travels. Step in and stand up for that coworker who’s being brow-beaten by an evil manager or jerky peer.

When you come face to face with an ethical dilemma, the temptation and pressure are to gray out the black line and fudge the system a bit. If nothing else, lead yourself here by resisting this temptation.

Most groups strive for consensus, which I’ve long believed is nothing more than the tyranny of mediocrity. If you believe in something other than the emerging consensus, stick to your perspective but use your brain not brute force to gain support. Positive persuasion works best in almost all workplace circumstances.

When you are witness to an injustice in the workplace or life, don’t hide.

When you’re promoted into a management role, recognize that this doesn’t prove anything, especially your superiority. Instead, it gives you a slightly larger stage to step up and lead. Everything about your work should be focused on helping.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Everything about leading flows deep inside you. All but the most unfeeling recognize right from wrong, even on a small scale. As you encounter these situations, practice leading by summoning that strength from within and choosing and fighting for right.

Art's Signature