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The 5 Courage Killers

Here are 5 courage killers that any leader, woman or man, needs to know and confront. They’re embedded in who we are. (And they’re adapted from Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky’s book The Practice of Adaptive Leadership.)

1. LOYALTIES TO PEOPLE WHO DON’T BELIEVE YOU’RE DOING THE RIGHT THING

It’s an unstated social contract that a good leader gets the nod, the smile, the thumbs up from certain people that we are doing the “right thing.” It was big for me in my early years. But sooner or later, living out the Mission of God will test this one. You still need to seek counsel, advise, input… no lone ranger stuff…but sometimes we lead because it’s right!  Not because we get the approving smile or nod.

2. FEAR OF INCOMPETENCE

Every person I know enjoys feeling competent. “This is the way we do things and we know how to do it.” New visions and new directions require new skills. And most are not mastered easily or quickly. It’s a descent into incompetence. And it’s best not done alone.

3. UNCERTAINTY THAT WE’RE TAKING THE RIGHT PATH

Ultimately there’s a point where we jump in not knowing if it will work or not. Right? To do nothing invites decline or death. Wise leaders minimize the risk when they can.  They try small experiments. They pilot new paths. Leaders go first. But even after we start there can be long seasons where everyone wrestles with “persist” or “quit” or “try something different”.

4. FEAR OF LOSS

Grief and loss? Not always obvious. There will be grief and loss over how things used to be when life was “simpler”, when doing church was “easy”. I mistook “loss” for lack of commitment, for not buying the new vision. I thought they didn’t get it. Turns out it was grief and loss that needed some attention.

5. NO STOMACH FOR THE HARD CONVERSATIONS/HARD SEASONS

It is not easy to make yourself available for conversations…the hard conversations! It is a lot of extra time on the calendar, listening well, trying to understand, learning, and being the non-anxious one in the room. And, I’d like to say that I always loved those conversations. Loved those seasons. Never lost any sleep. Yes…I’d like to say that….

So, you’ve mastered a couple of these already, right?  Well done.  And… thanks for leading with courage!

My guess is that there’s one that’s holding you back more than the others.

Why not share this with a friend:

  1. Which one is your best?
  2. Which one is holding you back?
  3. What do we want to do about it?

Jock Ficken
Rev. Dr. Jock Ficken

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