Friday, June 14, 2024
CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Opinions - Courageous leadership has never been more vital

CEO Opinions

Courageous leadership has never been more vital

Anne Duggan

Beaming with gratitude, Lee Naik, the CEO of TransUnion Africa, accepted the 2023 Top Employer certification from Top Employers Institute for the third year running. Rightfully so, he has a lot to be grateful for. The positive changes that his executives and he had cultivated in just over six years are definitely noteworthy. Turning an old business around, transforming its core and driving growth in eight African countries are not easy feats, especially when a sizeable chunk of the years was fiercely disturbed by the outbreak of the Coronavirus. 

March 2020 marked the beginning of another permacrisis era. Naik and his executives felt the crunch. Businesses are experiencing an extended period of unpredictable upheavals. Hence, it was no big surprise when Collins Dictionary declared “permacrisis” as the word of the year 2022. After more than two tempestuous years, the lingering aftermath of the pandemic continues to hamper the socioeconomic progressions of nations. Furthermore, exacerbated by geopolitical tensions, climate change issues, adverse effects from rapid technological advancements, unethical business practices, fake news, and a wide spectrum of country-specific challenges, today’s leaders are facing unprecedentedly complex problems, irrespective of whichever industry they operate in. As we venture further into 2023, experts around the world become more convinced that a global recession is an inevitable eventuality. But efficacious leaders, like Naik, will remind you that the depth of your leadership is revealed during inconvenient times.

In the midst of a permacrisis, some experts will tell you that leaders’ top priority is to harness antifragility across their organisations. According to Nassim Taleb, antifragility goes beyond resilience. It is a virtue that empowers individuals to do more than just withstand a shock or relying on stoicism to deal with stress. Antifragility is the virtue that nudges all of us to reinterpret permacrisis as an opportunity to create value for stakeholders instead of viewing it solely as a calamity.

However, Naik will probably tell you that the intention to harness antifragility will not bear fruit unless leaders actively invite themselves to bring courage into play contextually. 

Without courage, leaders cannot exercise vulnerability and without vulnerability, leaders cannot exercise followership. In the era of permacrisis, effective leaders will no longer be the ones who have all the answers. Instead, they must follow those employees who have acquired the appropriate wisdom. Without courage, leaders cannot invite their stakeholders and themselves to re-envision the future, pivot away from old modus operandi, catalyse innovative options, and design the safety nets to prevent risks. Naik firmly believes that the leadership mantra for this contemporary time is very much about making courageous choices to solve challenges that matter and create value innovatively. He is very happy to admit that he doesn’t have all the answers.

Without courage, leaders cannot condition their minds to adopt new trends or accept the ever-changing dynamics within their business ecosystems. Without courage, leaders cannot let go of their self-serving aspirations, which are oftentimes disguised as big hairy audacious goals that are seemingly meant to benefit everyone. Without courage, leaders cannot create a human-centric workplace that inspires their employees to thrive for higher performance and cultivate zestfulness. Above all, without courage, it will be hard for leaders to express authentic gratitude. Gratitude is an interesting virtue. When one expresses gratitude to others, all parties involved in the exchange experience an upliftment of their spirits.

When Naik accepted the CEO position in 2017, he knew deeply that TransUnion Africa’s successes would only come from building a company filled with option-driven, growth-oriented, and zest-seeking employees. Therefore, not only his executives and him had to visibly embrace the right kinds of courage, but they also courageously paved the foundations that allowed their employees to think and act courageously, despite this change journey being uncomfortable at times.

If you are a leader who had accepted the duty to lead people through tough crises, you must have the courage to realise that it is inevitable that there will be unkind, undignified, and untruthful statements about you floating around. But you should not invest most of your energy in identifying where the toxicity comes from. Instead, courageously place a concerted effort to support those employees who will deliver results and leverage these fine examples to bring more employees on board steadily. When the impact of your success is noticeable, those naysayers will eventually vanish or lose credibility. 

Additionally, despite that it is important for you to disrupt who you are and redefine whom you are becoming in the time of permacrisis, it is equally important for you to define who you are not. You must have the courage to guard against moving down those paths that may seem to gratify for the short-term, but ultimately do not produce noteworthy values in the long run. 

Maya Angelou, the renowned poet and activist, expressed her view on the importance of courage with this beautiful statement, “I am convinced that courage is the most important of all the virtues. Because without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue consistently.” Indeed, without having the courage to ignite and fuel your other virtues, you cannot easily activate your best self and dial up your leadership capacity.  Now, should you be helping your people and you to expand and exercise courage? If so, how?

Written by Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen and Anne Duggan.
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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Opinions - Courageous leadership has never been more vital

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Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen and Anne Duggan
Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen and Anne Duggan are co-authors of Courageous Invitations: How to be your best and succeed through self-disruption (Hambone Publishing $32.9)). Dr Yu-Jen Chen is a full-time faculty at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria, and founder of Forward Notion Advisory. Anne Duggan has over 25 years of experience in leading vast multi-disciplinary teams, in Senior Executive roles in complex and challenging environments.

Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen and Anne Duggan are opinion columnists for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen through LinkedIn here and Anne Duggan here.