A Rallying Cry for More Boldness
Updated: Apr 10, 2022
Tucker Miller | President and Founder of Day 6 Leadership, LLC
Removing biases that inhibit boldness offers expanded capability for unity, learning, collaboration, and achievement. As we celebrate the achievements of bold women in history this month, let's cultivate our own boldness and remember to encourage and celebrate the boldness of those around us.
Why Be Bold?
Boldness is defined as a willingness to take risks and act innovatively. We demonstrate boldness through acts of courage and confidence. We are bold when we share our point of view, admit our mistakes, challenge the status quo, and tell the truth. The simple act of asking more of ourselves in the ways that we lead our lives is bold.
The Boldness Paradox
For all the good that it does, boldness sometimes gets a bad rap. Speaking up may be viewed as contradictory or threatening. Questioning the status quo may appear defiant, insubordinate, or uncooperative. Researchers also point out that "being bold" is not gender-neutral. Where men are often praised in performance appraisals for being outgoing, decisive, and assertive, the same behaviors in women are viewed differently.
Being bold often poses a slippery slope for women and other underrepresented groups.
With a disproportionate number of men in senior leadership levels, advancement to higher levels of an organization necessarily increases the likelihood of reporting to male leaders. Research studies demonstrate that when men comment on women’s communication styles in performance reviews, women are more likely than men to receive feedback characterizing their communication style as aggressive, even bossy. To avoid these characterizations, women sometimes respond by holding back; when they do, they then risk being characterized as reticent, incompetent, or worse. The impact of this is staggering -- when you think of admired leaders, how many would you describe as bossy, emotional, or reticent? Without even meaning to, whole categories of emerging leaders may be marginalized because of word choice and unconscious biases.
Boldness Without Bias
Leaders provide direction and motivation to work together, solve problems, and achieve results. To do all these things, leaders must be bold. They must be honest, empathic, direct, and courageous.
Leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could. -- Steve Jobs
Gender is not part of the job description, and gender differences should not excuse equitable assessment and characterization of leadership competencies. Rather than being threatened by the boldness we see in others, we should consider ways to encourage, develop, and celebrate it. When we create space for each others' points of view, we put into practice how to be heard and seen without putting others on the defensive.
Boldness need not be viewed as a threat; instead, boldness should be seen as a powerful accelerator for learning, collaboration, and achievement.
Where to Begin
You can make a stand for boldness by challenging behaviors that diminish others. Mentoring and caring feedback are themselves emboldening actions and you have the power to make a difference in the lives and leadership of others -- when you speak up and how you speak up. Be an advocate when you hear criticisms that label or shame (e.g., referring to people as bossy or opinionated, instead of assertive or forthright). As Goethe reminds us,
“Boldness has genius, power,
and magic in it.”
Leading With Heart
Effective leaders take a stand; they are bold; they lead with heart. Just consider Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They are powerful examples of how humanity is best served with boldness. Your impact expands through your generosity and authenticity. Encouraging boldness in others begins with creating space for others around you to be bold, too. Be truthful about your own mistakes, be accountable – and show people around you that it's okay to do the same. Seek honesty, listen intently, and be kind. Listen and learn together.
Boldness Is A Practice
Boldness comes easily to a few; it is hard for many. Too often leaders believe that if they demonstrate boldness in their own actions, others will see it and catch on. Because of complex social and cultural influences that exist beyond the workplace, that line of thinking is inadequate to ensure the development and visibility of emerging leaders. Bold leadership, though, can be learned and practiced. Working with a coach, developing leaders have the benefit of a dedicated sounding board for exploring new strategies and techniques; they also reap the benefit of honest and caring feedback to refine experimentation in approaches to becoming more confident. These confidential discussions with a coach also offer a safe place to unpack beliefs and experiences that may be barriers to advancement and growth.
Let us know if we can help.
Day 6 Leadership, LLC is a consulting and coaching company specializing in helping to prepare women leaders for expanded responsibility, influence, and impact.