Those leaders are bold.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines bold in part with these three definitions:
- not afraid of danger or difficult situations
- showing or needing confidence or lack of fear
- very confident in a way that may seem rude or foolish
Put your list of leaders against these criteria, and I’m guessing all of them exhibit one or more of these qualities. And you will quickly see that not all of the definitions of bold are completely positive either; a fact which itself keeps some people from exhibiting the boldness they could.
While boldness isn’t the only factor that makes for effective leaders, it certainly is one, as already proven by my opening thought exercise, and can be further explained if you remember that the leader’s role is to help their team make a bigger impact.
Try making an impact of any size while being decidedly un-bold. To make a bigger dent in the world definitely requires boldness.
While leadership boldness could be defined in many ways, I will offer four thoughts for you. These four begin with the letters that spell the word bold backwards; to get you started, to challenge and cajole you, and hopefully turn up your inner boldness as a leader.
Here we go . . .
Dedicate to your purpose
Walt Disney would be considered by anyone to have been a bold leader. While he exhibited all of the characteristics that follow, this one might be his strongest. Disney didn’t say he was in the movie business, the theme park business or even the entertainment business. Disney’s purpose? “We are in the happiness business.”
While now, many years later, we might nod and smile and think of how bold this statement of purpose was in his time; but back then, no one was thinking about a business this way, and many felt his mouse, and later his theme park ideas, were more than bold, but wild and farfetched.
The bold leader is clear on their guiding purpose and remains dedicated to it, because it matters and because it will attract the right people to follow them.
Make your purpose clear, and lead boldly toward it.
Lead to your vision
A vision of a future destination is a place not yet real. To create that vision requires some boldness in itself, but to cast that vision and lead solely focused on creating it is boldness at a different level.
And yet, if that audacious vision doesn’t exist, it can never be materialized. The best leaders craft a vision connected to their purpose and lead towards it every day.
Make your vision clear, even if it is big and you are ridiculed for it. The truth is that the ridicule might be the proof you are on the right track.
Set it, see it and lead towards it boldly.
Obstacles, be damned!
Henry Ford said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” He is mostly right – and that is why others see obstacles so clearly, because they don’t see the goal. Remember one of the definitions I shared for boldness?
“very confident in a way that may seem rude or foolish”
If you have ever been around a bold leader you know that they are so focused on the goal that the obstacles don’t even seem to be on their radar screen – in a way that makes them seem so confident that they almost seem foolish . . .
Foolishness or boldness in action? I’ll let you decide.
When you have boldly found a purpose and created a vision, then obstacles seem temporary and worth surmounting. The bold leader sees the world this way and helps their team do the same.
The actor Harrison Ford said this about acting and success: “All I would tell people is to hold onto what was individual about themselves, not to allow their ambition for success to cause them to try to imitate the success of others. You’ve got to find it on your own terms.” It could just as easily be written for us about leading. Yes, we can learn from others (and we should), yet we must be confident, and yes, bold enough, to lead from our own terms.
There is more than one way to successfully lead, and while the best leaders are on a lifetime journey to improve, they also are comfortable with themselves and being the best leader they can be, not trying to become someone else.
To lead boldly you must be yourself.
While it might have been easier to order these points to spell the word bold, it is this backward order that makes the most sense for us to achieve the leadership success we desire and our organization deserves.
If you want to make the difference you want and the world needs, you must lead boldly!