"The world needs leaders to stand up for what they believe in, stay true to their values and have the courage to say no when something is not right."
Mandy Holloway is extremely passionate about her topic, and generously shares with the reader her own learnings and leadership development journey, both as an employee and as a mother. Inspiring Courageous Leaders provides plenty of information and food for thought for leaders at all levels of experience, from emerging through established. The book is handily designed as a workbook for individuals to work through and covers developing an understanding of Mandy’s leadership model, building confidence in your leadership mastery and exploring how to improve key aspects of your leadership ranging from relationships, business, and technical knowledge. It ends with encouraging you to commit to improving in the areas you have identified and notes that this is a continuing journey. If you wish to develop your approach to leadership, this is a book well worth considering. If you take all the lessons and learning contained in this book, it’s likely to become a well-worn favorite on your bookshelf.
I particularly enjoyed the end of each chapter, which contains a section on ‘Rattling Your Cage’. Each of these provides thought provoking questions which ask the reader to consider what they have read in application to themselves and their leadership style. Taking the time to answer these and putting some of the thoughts into action will inevitably help anyone improve their leadership style in the areas they choose to do so.
The Big Idea
Know and be yourself in all spheres of life
"The Courageous Leaders Model is about exploring the way you currently lead others—your family or an organization, or both. This book is also about discovering what kind of leader you are and would still like to become."
One of the highlights of this book is the author’s emphasis that our own leadership style should be the same in all aspects of our lives, whether we are thinking of how we are as parents or leaders in our community, to the type of leadership style we have in the workplace. As a working mother, this resonated with me and reaffirms my own belief that no one should have to leave part of themselves behind as they walk into their workplace.
Leadership Mastery is the cornerstone of the model as this requires the reader to consider their character, personality and capability. Mandy Holloway explains that these three components are critical and that we all need to understand what these look like for us. Doing so requires developing self-knowledge and learning what is important to us, and assists us in taking action and producing outcomes that are in line with our sense of purpose. To develop this self-awareness we must also be courageous in seeking feedback from those around us to create our own personal learning agenda.
Conversation is at the heart of leadership
"Culture is built or destroyed each time people have a conversation, make a decision, choose a behavior and ignite ideas within others. At its very essence it is the way we treat each other when working with each other to achieve business outcomes."
We express our leadership mastery in five ways: our thinking, our actions, what we say, when we act, and our beliefs. These are all present when we have conversations with other people and have an influence on the type of relationships we create and build. To use these positively, it is important that we:
- Bring consciousness to our thinking and avoid our automatic responses to situations.
- Bring our real selves to the workplace.
- Reflect on whether what you say to others sits with the type of leader you want to be and the organization needs you to be.
- Reflect on how long it takes you to act, as this can indicate how important something really is to you.
- Know your values and ensure you live them every day.
Having awareness of the above is an important first step. To develop and build Relationship Mastery, consider how you can also implement the following four strategies:
- Think the best not the worst; suspend judgement.
- Listen with the intention to understand the other person.
- Have the courage to share your own thoughts and views.
- Take responsibility for your actions and the perceptions they create.
There is always room for improvement
"The infinity symbol is used in the Courageous Leaders Model to represent this unlimited growth potential and development possibilities available to existing and emerging leaders..."
There are nine elements to the Courageous Leadership Model—all of which are critical to creating an environment where people can be themselves, be encouraged to achieve their potential and are aligned with the goals of their organization. The author emphasizes that these nine steps (listed below) are iterative and that we need to always be open to change and challenge, and that this takes courage.
- Leadership Mastery – This involves being an authentic leader and stresses the importance of positive relationships and interactions with others, making effective and efficient business decisions, and have credibility in your chosen profession.
- Confidence – The self-belief to make the choices that enable you to be at your best.
- Conviction – Putting your expertise, knowledge, and self-belief to use and making things happen, taking total responsibility for the full consequences of these actions.
- Courage developed – Building courage in your own knowledge and skills as you put into action your conviction and learn from its consequences.
- Connect and Commit – To have genuinely open conversations with others with transparency and vulnerability.
- Courage unleashed – Stop procrastinating and ensure you have the conversations that you need to have.
- Challenge – Conversations to disrupt the status quo and enable learning.
- Change – See change as core to your lifelong journey to becoming the leader you want to be and one that the business needs.
- High-performance culture – By following the previous elements and encouraging those around you to do the same, you can create a culture which encourages high performance and long-term business sustainability.
Inspiring Courageous Leaders gives the reader a lot to consider and can at times be confronting, especially in reading the author’s strong assertions that much of what we experience and practice in leadership is based on fear and that this has a negative influence on our decisions and choices. In turn, this is detrimental to organizational culture and leaves me wondering what the world of work could look like if we had more individuals implementing and role modelling the behaviors Mandy identifies as representing courageous leadership.