BLUF

For some, it’s about the glory; but wise leaders know the value of strategy for effective leadership.

Summary

Leadership author Constance Dierickx argues that although praise often goes to the leaders who ‘save the day’, the best leaders are those who have the ‘strategic courage’ to plan to avoid problems before they occur. Just as firefighters are the visible heroes of a fire emergency, fire marshals, risk managers and safety engineers work thanklessly behind the scenes to help prevent emergencies. When leaders have strategic courage, they steer their organisation in the intended direction, ask for help when needed, admit error and change what needs to be changed. Three characteristics of leaders who show strategic courage:

  1. Breadth of knowledge and intellectual flexibility. Good communicators can tell stories using content from the business, history, literature or even a particular hobby.
  2. Constant curiosity. Don’t be too hasty to deliver, or you may miss the opportunity to learn—results matter, but knowing how they were achieved matters just as much. 
  3. The Ability to let go. It is especially tough for leaders to let go of something they previously advocated. Even if circumstances change, it can be hard to change course—never mind admit mistakes, but leaders who do so provide a model for others to do the same.

Strategic courage allows leaders, at any level, to be open, experiment, learn, adapt, and move in the right direction. These behaviours serve as a model for others and are more effective than giving awards for rescue missions that didn’t need to happen.