Boldness has gotten the buzzword treatment lately. It's among the most important leadership traits along with passion and innovation. When you're looking to achieve your dreams and reach your goals, you've got to be bold and resilient in the face of obstacles and naysayers.
But the concept of boldness also has a "dark side." Some see boldness as a sign of leadership and making tough decisions — doing things your own way despite it being unpopular or countercultural.
But boldness can also be misconstrued as aggression. Some use the blanket of boldness to excuse their bullying tactics and a take-over mentality.
That's why I often see clients on either side of the fence. Whether you're getting in the way of your own boldness or you feel forced to have a strong-hold on every situation, navigating these waters can be tricky.
In life, we understand boldness through instinct. We value our power to help ourselves and others. We crave self-empowerment and can't escape our need for the appreciation of others. It's a mammalian sentiment that we simply can't escape, so why not learn to harness it and do some good with it?
What's strictly human is our amazing reasoning abilities. We're so bogged down by our self-directed language that most of us don't naturally recognize our inherent boldness, despite it being a God-given birthright. Society teaches us to put our story on the back-burner so we can blend in with the crowd. To some of us it feels uncomfortable or outright uncouth to be brash and confident. So eventually, when we receive the call to boldness in our work or personal lives, it feels like we're stepping into unknown territory.
The road to boldness comes in different forms for different people. Most of us implement ideas from mentors, friends, or books. But the common schema is assertion. We take charge of our lives in some way or another. We start with small things that make us feel more bold. We share the odd unpopular opinion because it's what we truly believe — we can't help it. We do things our own way despite the distance it might create between us and the people we know. We start to associate with people that pick us up instead of putting us down.
But that's why boldness is so good for us. People are magnetized to boldness. People pick up on your confidence and they hold a mirror to you, reflecting your confidence through their respect and admiration. Our confidence grows through the people that we impact.
The Importance of Putting Your Foot Down
I'm not saying that boldness is the only right way to live, but we have an obligation to ourselves to reframe what's aggressive and what's assertive. Remove any negative connotation that you may have attached to that word in the past. Aggressive and assertive are two very different things, believe me. And asserting yourself can be the first step to stepping into who you have always been. A sign that you're mixing your signals is when you're a people pleaser. If you see "no," as an aggression instead of a simple denial, you might not be standing up for yourself as much as you think.
Once you make that distinction, you will stop hesitating on things – you will actually get up and do all those things you’ve been putting off. You may find yourself doing things that are not expected of you – not by you and not by those who know you (or think they know you). Don't be afraid. If you're not hurting anyone and bringing joy into your life, you've discovered the whole point of boldness.
Move forward – no apologies and no excuses.
You may find that ‘no’ becomes an important part of your vernacular. It's scary to a lot of people. Many of my clients have felt that people like them because they're people-pleasers. I think the opposite. People respect those who respect themselves. You will start saying ‘no’ out of respect for yourself instead of doing things for others simply because they asked it.
I am NOT advising against being kind. There is nothing wrong with doing great things for others — it enriches your life. What I am saying is that, if it's getting in the way of your needs and preventing you from being your best, consider rethinking it.
A few of the biggest pluses to boldness are that you’ll be much more daring when it comes to asking for what you want. You begin to take more risks with the asks and those risks will pay off big time as you begin to open the doors to new opportunities which may not have existed before. You will also sharpen your negotiation skills many times over. There is nothing that makes your negotiation skills stronger than growing a backbone — you can count on it.
Now I'd like to use boldness as a spring-board for the "end-game:" leadership.
Put simply: to be bold, you must own your flaws and weaknesses. You have to admit to yourself and others where you could use some work. This is not to say that you should be driven or limited by your weaknesses. You shouldn't begin every task or plod through every goal constantly reminding yourself of where you might fail.
Instead, you admit your flaws and then use your strengths to outmaneuver the shortcomings. This is the sign of a leader. To find new ways to achieve something by focusing on your strengths while still understanding where you are not-so-great.
Great leaders and bold people try to improve on their weaknesses, but they don't wait to "perfect" their skills; they know there's no such thing as perfect. When opportunity knocks, you shouldn't scramble to get 100% in time to perfectly execute it. You've got to run through the door before it closes. Leadership also means giving the reigns to others. When a leader knows that the iron is hot, it takes guts to delegate it to someone else. This is humility to the most effective degree: admitting someone is better than you so that everyone can reap the rewards of success.
You must also accept that "failure" is just a synonym for "learning opportunity." You can't be afraid to fail. You'll learn that failure isn't a catastrophe — it's a necessary and beneficial part of the journey.
Speaking and Thinking Boldly
Bold leaders speak up and speak up often. That's not to say that introverts can't be bold leaders — they most certainly can. But even introverted leaders need to put their foot down. To be bold, you must be unapologetic in your methods of bringing out the best in others. You know that their success is tied to the success those around them.
Like we mentioned in the last article: boldness doesn't mean outright aggression. While you shouldn't fear honesty when pointing out the weaknesses in your team and employees, you should be just as likely to praise and reward jobs well done. Intuitively, you know what's good for morale in the long run and do what's necessary to motivate and reorient your team.
Bold leaders think outside of the box ALL THE TIME! They recognize the importance of being open-minded and flexible in certain circumstances and recognize when it’s important to stand their ground, firmly and respectfully.
You've got to enjoy the small wins! Optimism and positivist are infectious, and they can only make your team stronger. Lead by example. When you get a small victory, celebrate it. Use that momentum to take the next step.
The Journey of a Thousand Miles
While these are a few of the characteristics of bold leaders, here are a few steps you can follow to insure you are on the bold leadership path to success:
You've got to think on your feet. When you get "comfortable" in your career, that's an alarm going off to tell you that it's time to move forward. Start thinking about next steps for your product or service. Think about new ways to separate yourself from the competition. Ask your team to gather for round-tables bi-weekly to brainstorm concepts and new ways of doing what you do best. Innovation comes naturally when you spend time with others who share the same passion. Be sure that your team is as enthusiastic about the product as you are — the lightning-bolt moments will follow.
Focus on Results without losing sight of the relationships
The corporate environment we live in becomes more and more demanding each year. That bottom line always looms on the horizon, so it's almost impossible to ignore. But when it comes to results, you've got to consider the relationships behind the numbers. The situation isn't what makes you money in the end; it's the people.
Customers and clients
Top level execs & corner office
Management & board of directors
Your team and the people they lead
Remember that people choose to work with people. Most of the time, it's people they like. If you remember this crucial difference between a "business person" and a leader, you're on your way to getting more results than you ever have before.
Learn to communicate effectively
Stay on top of the lingo in your industry just so you know your way around the literature. Don't overuse jargon when you're explaining it to people outside that "inner circle" of experts. Explain things in clear terms and don't sugar-coat the truth. People really do appreciate honesty in the long run. It builds stronger relationships and prevents massive disappointments over long stretches of "putting out the fires."
Always find the opportunity in every situation
Be able to find both the positive and negative in every situation. You can do this in any way you want, but a pros and cons list can work wonders to help you discover all the great that can come out of something seemingly negative. Use those pros as proof that things can be fixed. Use the cons as warnings and lessons for the future.
Become a pro at finding, retaining and relying on top talent (great delegators)
Any leader can lead but great leaders can lead by creating more leaders. Focusing on the fact that your success should be based on the success of others will make you much more effective and much more respected.
Always follow through
Do what you say you’re going to do and always follow through and over-deliver on promises. When you start slacking on what you promise, people realize it and you'll find no better way of alienating your tribe.
The efforts of your team should be recognized, rewarded and appreciated. After all, a great leader is only as great as the people they are leading. Show your team that you appreciate them with praise and incentives. Be on the lookout for extraordinary work that deserves praise and show gratitude verbally and through your actions. It can only stand to make your team stronger.
This is the greatest advice a leader can ever receive. It prevents what we often fear most — becoming an arrogant successful fool that nobody likes. Be humble and recognize your weaknesses. Praise those around you and bring those up who need help. Recognize that there is always more to learn and, in turn, you will always find lessons to learn.