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Thought Leadership

Adam Bryant

Do you have the courage of your convictions?

April 11, 2023

The pace of change can paralyze some executives. It’s time to develop a more dynamic relationship with risk-taking and failure.

Courage. That’s the word that comes up most frequently when I talk to senior leaders about the quality they’re looking for in executives in this very challenging moment.

Courage in this context means having the confidence and fortitude to make a decision when there is no obvious right or wrong answer. It means doing what’s best for the company, even if the decision will make people unhappy. It means sticking to your stated values, even if that comes at a cost to your standing at your company, because you refused to go along with a plan that you felt was wrong.

In working with and interviewing hundreds of executives, I have encountered some who strike me as what I call Hippocratic executives and managers. The name is taken from the Hippocratic oath of doctors, which has come to be associated with the phrase, “First, do no harm.” These leaders seem to have adopted the same philosophy in managing their career and their assignments. They play it safe, staying under the radar and not taking chances.

But if you want to move up, understand that many CEOs need to know whether you have the courage to act. Granted, not everyone in a company is making big decisions in terms of strategy or policy, or is allocating resources for new initiatives. But everyone needs to lead from his or her seat. This requires taking responsibility and figuring out how to impact and influence the organization.

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The ExCo Group’s Adam Bryant wrote this article for his column in Strategy + Business.