Simon Sinek has a fantastic quote from his article Failure Is An Option; “to operate based on conviction and belief requires an acceptance that your actions could get you fired. This is different from pig-headed bravado, and it is different from putting the company at risk”.
He refers in this article to the wonderful fact-based series Band of Brothers, which is the story of Easy Company, a legendary part of the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army fighting in France during World War Two. If ever there was an example of collaborative engagement in the workplace – well, just watch the series from start to finish, or read the book by Major Dick Winters, Beyond Band of Brothers, to see what I mean. These men embodied bravery; and much like the best leaders of the business world today, their bravery wasn’t just about the physical side of the war. It was about saying ‘this isn’t the way it should be’ when things were not acceptable in terms of conditions. It was about driving change, making new policy, and above all having the conversations which made things better.
It was about being willing to shine.
There is an omnipresent culture of business bluster and bravado lurking around at present, with many leaders only showing the tip of the business performance iceberg – and on a continual basis. Many are not willing to expose the majority of their ability, even once firmly established in a role or company, instead choosing to hide it under a slick, smooth surface. If you see yourself (or someone near you) making excuses, taking beta position, meeting targets rather than exceeding them, investing in self rather than others, facing inward, only hearing your own voice, being closed off… that’s bravado and unwillingness to shine.
Why do we do this? As Dr Seuss says, why fit in when you were born to stand out?
There are many ways to be brave. Yes, it may mean having to face up to the front line occasionally, but as Sinek says, this is acceptance of one’s actions rather than risking the whole box of dice. So how do we achieve bravery – and thus brilliance – rather than the dull, closed off status quo of bravado?
We strive to be change-makers and to improve the way things are done within the company, the sector, the industry, or even the community. We have the courage to:
- Stand in our own spotlight
- Use our voices
- Ask for help
- Be vulnerable
- Be different
- Challenge the status quo – because this is how change happens
I am not a fan of war stories. But I take many lessons from Band of Brothers, because in a myriad ways, it is not a series about war.
It is a series about thoughtful and collaborative leadership.
And that is brilliant and brave in itself.