Do you remember the children's game "Follow the Leader"? One child would lead the way and the rest of us would follow him or her up, down, around, over, under, in and out of all sorts of places. We'd follow that leader just so long as he or she was taking us to happy places in a happy way. Then we'd follow someone else. The leader wasn't the oldest, the strongest, the fastest, or the best looking. The leader was simply the person we were following at that moment.
On one level, leadership is that simple. However, while people will follow an engaging leader for awhile, they will devote themselves to the cause of a BRAVE leader who inspires and enables them in the pursuit of that cause. Those leaders constantly reevaluate their teams' environment, values, attitudes, relationships and behaviors. They know that survival of the fittest goes to those best able to adapt*. They know we are all new leaders all the time and know to treat the next 100 days as though they were the first 100 days of the rest of their careers. Because they are.
Webster defines "brave" as having or showing courage – the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. BRAVE is also an acronym for Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and Environment which together form a framework for brave leadership. In brief:
Environment is about the context for your leadership, the change you must respond to, the danger, fear or difficulty into which you and your team must venture, persevere, and withstand. Ask the question, "where play?" taking into acount the business environment, organizational history, and recent results as you drive to clear choices.
Values get at what matters most to you and to your followers. You're going to respond and adapt to the ever-changing world around you; but to what end? Ask "what matters?" to get at your purpose and principles.
Attitude involves the choices you make about strategy, posture, and culture. This is the pivot between the environment and values, and relationships and behaviors. Get specific about the answer to the question "how win?"
Relationships are what happens when you connect with people. Get clear on your message. Then think through how you're going to communicate that message. You can't communicate anything until you connect. So ask "how connect?"
Behaviors are where the rubber meets the road. Assess your environment, get clear on your values, choose your attitude, build relationships on the way to behaving and driving those few behaviors that will make a meaningful and rewarding impact others. Ask "what impact?" to frame what you do and why.
Net, BRAVE leadership is not about you as the leader. It's about inspiring and enabling others. You can earn their devotion to an important cause by focusing on behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values, and the environment and asking and answering five questions:
- Where play?
- What matters?
- How win?
- How connect?
- What impact?
There's much more on BRAVE leadership in The New Leader's Playbook.