Leaders, Pay the “Upfront” Cost!

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin on Fox News Sunday

On Fox News Sunday, Sarah Palin noted that President Obama doesn’t have “the cojones” to effectively address the issue of illegal immigration.

Here’s the story: Palin Says Brewer Has Something Obama Lacks: ‘Cojones’. History will determine whether or not she is on target.

The word “cojones” ┬áis a borrowed word from Hispanic roots. It basically means courage to step up and do the right thing. Leaders are always being criticized by followers for something. So, why not be criticized for doing what you feel is important and necessary, as the effective leader you are?

The issue about Obama is simply a political football – or is it? Anyway, it does set the stage for looking at leadership courage.

Here are some ways that the Transformational Leader can step into action:

  1. Address the Issue – Leaders continually ignore inappropriate or unproductive behavior and do not address it head on. Not dealing with an issue can cause your organization to suffer larger consequences: time, money, relationships, public image, market share, etc. Not dealing with the issue when first discovered will only allow it to grow larger and create more damage. Pay the upfront cost and deal with the issue immediately. A musical rehearsal is to correct mistakes before they become learned behavior, and before they impact the entire orchestra or choir. Business and church leaders have the same responsibility – fix the problem now before it multiplies.
  2. Do not Place Importance on Popularity – The musical conductor is expected to correct mistakes before they become learned behavior. These actions are not considered to be personal in nature – it’s simply part of the leader’s responsibility. Business and church leaders are too worried about upsetting the balance, or about hurting someone’s feelings, or seeming to be confrontational while preventing or correcting problems. In fact, the leader is respected more after taking action and addressing the difficult issues. Teams do not respect a leader who does not or cannot deal with these situations. Pay the upfront cost – act on issues appropriately, and let popularity find its place.
  3. Be Aware that Others Follow Your Behavior – If you have children, you will understand this dynamic easily. Those we lead will pick up and emulate our habits – especially our habits that we do not like. The lesson is that authentic, ethical, firm, focused leadership inspires the same. Model the results and behavior that you want to see in your organization.
  4. Do Not Guard the Information – Effective Transformational Leaders share information needed to accomplish tasks and meet deadlines for goals. Have the courage to share all the information you have in order to enable your team members to share in the success of meeting organizational goals. It’s not only you. It’s not about you. It’s not only up to you. It’s a shared effort. Share the information and share the celebration. Be courageous and know that you will make it happen, but you do not need all the attention or all the credit. You are, in fact, the leader. If there is success, then you have led the team and the organization to that success. It becomes self-evident.
  5. Be Transparent – Do not pretend to know everything – those whom you lead know the facts, so why pretend? In fact, if you try to pretend that you have no weaknesses, then those who work for and with you will prove you to be wrong. It might be intentional. It might not be intentional. It just happens. Transparency is a trait of strong leaders. By being vulnerable and letting your team know that they have a place for acting that complements your skills, a leader will empower them to do their best. It’s now their skill, and not yours. They have a chance to step up as well.

This is a short list of courageous behaviors for the Transformational Leader.

Tip: Would you rather be criticized for being an action leader, behaving boldly for the good of an organization, or would you rather be criticized for “playing it safe”?

Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

Hugh Ballou (Author)

  • What a great resource!

  • Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  • Great article. One correction: “Cojones” means balls. This was a shock to many people in the Hispanic community that a person of such high position in American society as Palin would use that word in a public platform. She may have done this on purpose to demonstrate that she is just one of the people. I, for one, like the fact that Palin is what she is. I think we need more balls in politics and less PC.

    Whether or not her use of that term was appropriate and whether or not it worked is one thing, but more importantly this brings up the issue of how important it is for leaders today to be inter-culturally sensitive.