On Leadership, Courage, and Ruby Slippers

How far does your courage stretch?

As Leaders, we often have to make unpopular decisions that can have a devastating impact on the lives of real people.

I have dealt with my fair share of disciplinaries which have resulted in dismissal, or redundancy situations where human beings that I have cared about have had to go. But even though you tend to toughen up over time, it is never easy to carry out any of these necessary business actions. It remains a difficult task to make decisions that impact real people with negative consequences.

Whose Fault?

Sometime the stark realities of business decisions come from marketplace conditions that force us to make cutbacks that affect real people. Other times, it is the people themselves that cause their own demise. Although letting people go for marketplace conditions is truly difficult, it seems much harder to let them go when their demise is a results of their own behaviors. Or maybe it just seems that way because the person I had to fire was my sister.

Back Story

It is a fact of life that we will all make mistakes. And some people will make mistakes that may put the safety of others at risk or pose a business, financial or PR threat. When these incidents occur then deal with them we must. No matter who they are.

So what if you have helped a close member of your family to achieve their dream?

You have put all of your leadership skill into negotiating and financing a business deal that will give your beloved family member a great start. They are grateful and motivated and will ‘pay you back’ and ‘work hard’. So, led by your heart for a change you go ahead and think that you are doing some good.

Then twelve months down the line the ‘family’ business deal to which your name is attached is so far down the proverbial ‘Suwannee’ that you have to step in to rescue it and sack your beloved family member and make them homeless!

Sound like your worst nightmare?

Well, guess what, I was that soldier.

When I write it down and read it back I find that I am questioning the judgement of the person that would do this. But then I remember it was just me, trying to help the sister who had not been as clever or as successful. Maybe my motivation was guilt for being more clever?

Whatever logic I use to justify why I did it will never wipe away the pain of the steps I had to take to fix it, and there lies the learning.

Pick Your Pain

We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” ~ Jim Rohn

This is a lesson that I may never have learned any other way. The guilt and pain you may feel as a leader in an organisation having to carry out a business decision can never compare to the guilt and pain in having to make this business decision. It was and still is the hardest business decision and action I have ever had to make and take.

What I would have done to have been able to tap my ruby slippers together and wish to go home!

Instead I approached this tough decision with the logic of a leader, making the best decision for all parties involved. Weighing up pro’s and con’s and potential outcomes with each strategy and scenario.

Then, summoning up the courage the action was taken and the backlash was as expected. As a leader I had prepared myself for the all potential outcomes and accepted that I would be unpopular for sometime. I had accepted that this particular relationship may not be repairable and I had taken responsibility for my actions.

How far does my courage stretch? Further than I thought and as far as I need it to in any situation.

Facing up to every challenge that comes your way is the legacy of leaders no matter if they are great or mediocre, and I am sure that where they are pitched is always a matter of opinion anyway. Unpopularity goes with the territory!

So, although there is one person that would question ‘if I had a heart’ and I may ask myself ‘if I had a brain’ there is no doubt that somewhere along the line my experience and training enabled me to interact with the wonderful wizard and find a credible amount of courage.

Having made such a decision, how do I sleep at night?

I sleep better than I would have if I had not dealt with the problem, and in this situation I think that is as good as it gets.

What lessons have you learned from working with family members? What decisions have you made that have given you your greatest learnings as a leader? Who have you had to deal with that has had a lasting effect on your leadership style? I’d love to hear your story!

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Mandy Russell is Managing Director of Mpower International Limited
She helps with Coaching, Leadership and Teambuilding Workshops and Training
EmailLinkedInFacebookTwitterWebBlog │ Skype: mandy-russell │ 07831 1250288

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One response to “On Leadership, Courage, and Ruby Slippers

  1. Tom, You will not believe this! My brother did a workshop for my fifth grade students back in October on problem-solving skills…not your typical mathematical computational stuff, but real-life problem solving skills, and he used the main characters in the Wizard of Oz! It was a wonderful presentation and the ten year olds were spellbound! Your article brought a smile back to my face that he put on almost three months ago! Happiness, felecia

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