Leaders & Teams

Challenges of the future call for brave leaders

Forget about strong shieldmaidens and invincible superheroes. Being a courageous leader in 2024 is about entirely different values. You must be vulnerable, demonstrate trust, and dare to fail in the pursuit of finding new solutions.

The acceleration of society means that we are in a situation where the world around us is constantly changing. Both our society, work life, and private life are changing at an unprecedented speed and with increasing complexity. This places great demands on both individuals and leaders.

“Acceleration is a fact of life. We cannot deny it. Therefore, we must accept acceleration and learn how to navigate in it. This requires leaders who dare to step forward and make decisions on an uninformed basis,” says Henrik Schelde Andersen, who has worked specifically with courageous leadership for many years.

Why is courageous leadership important in 2024?

“We need to practice navigating in acceleration and complexity and accept that we will fail in our attempts to find new solutions. Because acceleration demands not only thinking differently but also daring to act differently. And that requires courage. Only when you try it out in practice do you know if it works,” explains Henrik.

It may sound like an easy task. But it is anything but easy. We thrive best in safe environments and with acceptance from our surroundings – and this quest for security is challenged by our rapidly changing and complex society, which constantly pushes us onto thin ice. Here, we can neither rely on ‘we always do it this way’ nor listen uncritically to our superiors. On the contrary.

“The most important task for modern leaders is therefore to create their own autonomous leadership space and thereby get a grip on what drives me as a leader. What values are important for me to pursue in my leadership? And then continuously test what the prevailing framework and conditions are for my own leadership, as the framework and conditions are constantly changing. Especially the latter task, I find, requires great personal courage,” says Henrik, who has worked on strengthening courageous leadership in government agencies and municipalities.

Courageous leaders relinquish control, demonstrate trust, and dare to fail.

Another important element in working with courage is that leaders are encouraged to practice relinquishing control and demonstrating trust. Leaders can succeed in their work – precisely as leaders – by not micromanaging. Creating truly self-managing teams, not just pseudo-self-managing teams, requires courageous leadership.

Research and real-life examples show that employees generally become more responsible when they are trusted and given genuine responsibility. Furthermore, their job satisfaction increases significantly when they feel they influence their areas of work. For example, employees in self-managing teams, who have to negotiate salaries with each other, are significantly more responsible and restrained in their demands than when they negotiate directly with their leaders individually.

“Nevertheless, I can observe that many organisations maintain the more traditional structure, where there is a hierarchy of leaders who are supposed to lead and distribute the work. In my opinion, this is unfortunate and a missed opportunity, as everything points to the fact that organisations should show even more trust and delegate even more responsibility to groups of employees to succeed in their tasks.”

But how do we then create organisational frameworks that enable individual leaders to be courageous?

According to Henrik Schelde Andersen, the answer is an organisation and/or a company that:

  • accepts leaders who fail
  • appreciates leaders who critically explore
  • rewards leaders who dare to improvise (including challenging decisions, hierarchies, and other frameworks) in an attempt to find new solutions to old challenges.

“As a consultant, I have been in several politically governed organisations that encouraged leaders to be innovative or had given them a ‘license to act.’ However, without success. Therefore, it is not so much about what you say. Rather, it is about how the organisation reacts when leaders take up the challenge,” says Henrik.

Strengthen your courage

According to leadership researcher Brené Brown, developing personal, psychological courage primarily requires being in touch with one’s vulnerability. In her view, personal courage is not about being reckless, invulnerable, or warlike – but rather, it is about accepting the risks that almost always go with a courageous act.

The most important source of being able to strengthen personal courage thus comes from one’s own beliefs and values and acting according to these beliefs.

In practice, this means having clear boundaries for what is right and wrong – and what one can live with. It means critically exploring decisions, frameworks, and conditions if they are not perceived as constructive or productive. And it means daring to admit mistakes and ask for help.

Fortunately, personal courage can be trained and strengthened.

But be careful not to take too big steps in the beginning. It takes time to overcome the discomfort that comes with doing something new and courageous. Therefore, according to Jim Detert, one should proceed cautiously and find courageous actions that are just outside one’s comfort zone. As a metaphor, he talks about a ‘courage ladder,’ where each step describes one’s personal development. That way, you gradually – but surely – build up your courage.

Enjoy the journey!

Meet Henrik

Henrik Schelde Andersen has spent the last 15 years working on developing leaders and supporting leadership in politically governed organizations. In this work, it has become clear to him when leaders succeed – and when they fail – in translating theory and research-based knowledge into practice. This knowledge, combined with current research, has become what Henrik himself calls ‘Courageous Leadership.’

“From knowing something to being able to do it, it takes some time,” Henrik explains and continues:

“That’s how it has been for me as well in starting to work with courageous leadership. The first step was to understand the leaders’ workflows and their specific challenges, and from there, seek solutions. However, they were not readily available, and therefore I had to develop what I now call courageous leadership.”

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