Is it possible to have a favourite competency? A competency is just a name to describe a behaviour. For example, "organising" is a competency to describe a person's ability to pull together resources, such as people, money and support, to get things done*. So, is it possible to have a favourite behaviour? Do I sound like a HR nerd? Don't answer that.

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Anyhoo, I have one. It's called "managerial courage" and it's hard to come by. What is managerial courage? I know you want to know. Lominger define it as:

  • Says what needs to be said
  • Gives feedback that is current and actionable
  • Directly deals with people issues
  • Making hard decisions when needed*

The thing is though, you don't see much managerial courage in organisations. Maybe we don't see much in society in general. I see a lot of people who won't take tough stands, who won't give feedback when needed, won't step up to and deal with issues, avoid conflict and won't take the heat. Leaders who hide behind the decisions of others and blame others for decisions. Leaders who are highly critical of their peers but are unaware of their own behaviour and it's impact.

Every now and again you do come across someone who has courage. It's usually not the beating on your chest, superhero type of courage. It's usually quieter, honest and with humility. I like the term wobbly courage. I have written about it in another blog for a leadership development program, and I was reminded of this term this week.

Wobbly courage is a term I love. I think it perfectly sums up the kind of courage we need to have to be successful and to be a good leader. Leadership is very little about that superhero type of courage where you become your alter ego, puff out your lycra swathed chest and swoop in to save the day in a difficult and dangerous situation. 

A discussion with an underperforming employee or a challenging customer is never like this. Giving feedback to someone more senior or providing some development ideas to a peer can be tough. Good leaders will have the courage to have these types of conversations but can you say you have felt like Superman or Wonder Woman? I can’t. Many times when I need to have a difficult conversation with someone or have to terminate a person’s employment I feel sick and want to put it off. Sound familiar? I have definitely gotten better at these conversations and working through these processes and so probably seem confident, but I’m very wobbly on the inside.

What is Courage?
There are all kinds of competency models that give examples about what managerial or leadership courage is. The Lominger Competency Libray is a good one but HR people like me also spend lots of time and energy developing them. They are usually boring. 

What are some of the things that resonate with me and some of the leaders I work with?

  1. The ability to make tough decisions and follow through (even when you are feeling wobbly)
  2. Saying the things that need to be said (even when it’s really hard)
  3. Dealing with the hard situations (even when you don’t want to and it sucks!)
  4. Showing up and facing up (when you would rather stay in bed with the covers over your head)
  5. Knowing that you don’t and can’t know everything (the more you know the less you know)
  6. Being generous with your time and knowledge
  7. Including others in your problems (we seriously can’t do it all ourselves)
  8. Being open, not defensive (see number 5)
  9. Being able to look people in the eye and speak to them from the heart (being  authentic)
  10. Having standards both personally and of others, and expectations of meeting them....but courage to accept when we fall short.  

What would you add?

*Definition taken from Lombardo, M M. and Eichinger, R W. FYI For Your Improvement: A Guide for Development and Coaching (2009)