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Friday, June 14, 2024
CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Advisory - Why courageous leadership is needed for the time of permacrisis

CEO Advisory

Why courageous leadership is needed for the time of permacrisis

Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen
Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen (Image courtesy: CEOWORLD magazine/FILE PHOTO.)

The last three years has taught us that relentlessly pushing the giant, heavy flywheel of business to gradually build momentum and great companies is not enough in times of permacrisis.  Neither is being a hedgehog and pursuing a strategy vigorously and with singular focus.

Borrowed from Jim Collins’ seminal book, “Good to Great’, first published in 2001, the flywheel and hedgehog analogy are still very relevant today if you are a CEO seeking to grow a business.  However, much has changed since the publication of this cult business read and to be successful we believe that there is another essential ingredient.  ‘Courageous leadership’. 

What is permacrisis?

Before we embark on a discussion about why courageous leadership is necessary during a permacrisis, lets pause and recap on what is meant by the term ‘permacrisis’.  After all, it was the word of 2022 according to the Collins Dictionary.  

‘Permacrisis’ in essence, defines extended periods of insecurity and instability.   March 2020 marked the beginning of a global permacrisis with the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, permacrises are not new and do not need to be of global scale. 

If we take any crisis, be it big or small, experience shows time and time again that when change is really needed, we become less able to change.  We therefore need leaders who are able to move quickly, that are able to make difficult decisions in order to bring a sense of order amid the turmoil.  

Why courageous leadership?

During times of crisis, effective leadership involves creating a sense of certainty, shared fate and common identity.  It involves building ‘anti-fragility’ as coined by Nassim Taleb, to empower individuals to do more than just withstand a shock or rely on stoicism to deal with stress.    Anti-fragility 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. Having agility and adaptability and embracing uncertainty around us requires courage.  Courageous leaders realise that in the midst of turbulence and uncertainty, there lies extraordinary opportunity for themselves and their businesses to grow and rise.  

Why is it necessary?

Vulnerability drives trust and allows you to inspire and connect with people on a deeper level making people more likely to follow.  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. 

Without courage, leaders cannot invite others to re-envision the future, pivot away from old ways of operating, catalyse innovative options, and design the safety nets that their organisations require to weather the storm. 

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.

Being courageous enables leaders to unlock breakthroughs in culture, drive innovation and transform strategy despite the challenging conditions and complex problems that their businesses are facing.  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. 

Characteristics of Courageous Leadership

  • Anti-fragility
    Courageous leaders have anti-fragility and have courage to face challenges head on.
  • Purpose & Intentionality
    Courageous leaders have a ‘why’.  They have the courage to live by their unique purpose and with intentionality, by aligning their actions with that purpose.  It is what sets you apart from the rest as history shows that the best leaders are those that take actions with intentionality and purpose.
  • Authenticity
    Courageous leaders are authentic A deep self-awareness and being true to oneself allows leaders to align their values with externalised behaviours.   It is courageous to be true to yourself and those around you and this courage fosters and environment that promotes collaboration, trust and innovation.
  • Curiosity
    Courageous leaders are curious and open to the opportunities and possibilities around them. They create wisdom through listening, learning and absorbing knowledge.   Being curious allows us to let go of views that no longer serve us well.
  • Adaptability
    Courageous leaders embrace change.  They adapt.
  • Self-Discipline
    Courageous leaders have immense discipline. They can lead under pressure, remain composed and approach crises in a logical and rational manner.

As Alexander the Great once said, “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” Are you a courageous leader?


Written by Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen and Anne Duggan.
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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Advisory - Why courageous leadership is needed for the time of permacrisis

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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.