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Audacious Leadership

According to the thesaurus embedded in Word, “audacious” has several synonyms: brave, daring, bold, gutsy, spirited, and – my favorite – plucky. Interestingly, the antonym shown is “cowardly.” I guess the mid-point would be “mediocre." Gives one pause, doesn’t it?

Most of the managing partners I know are terrific, very hard-working people who care deeply about what happens to their firms, both on their watch and down the road. But they’re not necessarily audacious. So what makes an audacious leader? A few thoughts:

  1. Audacious leaders inspire. They regularly communicate the organization’s purpose to all employees. And the purpose always goes beyond profitability and billable time. They consistently create a sense of unity and an involvement in something that’s bigger than any individual.
  2. Audacious leaders execute. When they say they will do something, whether easy or difficult, they do it. In this age of too little accountability, an audacious leader’s word really is his bond, and he doesn’t let himself or anyone else off the hook.
  3. Audacious leaders confront bad behavior. They deal head-on with partners and employees who, for whatever reason, make others' lives miserable. They are unafraid to ask “What the heck were you thinking?”
  4. Audacious leaders agitate. They create and introduce bigger ideas and more ambitious plans for the firm than anyone else. And they bear the slings and arrows that go along with such ideas.
  5. Audacious leaders aspire, thinking beyond the immediate problems. Audacious leaders ask for and get everyone’s best efforts, because they are respected and trusted – and because they are giving the best of themselves.

This is probably just the tip of the iceberg. If you are a leader in your organization, and you want to become more audacious, the key is to step out of your work-producing mode on occasion and give some thought to your own leadership style.

Gather a little data by asking those closest to you what they think about your leadership skills. Then ask a few others — those who are not your biggest fans — what they think. That will give you a fairly good snapshot of where you are now. From there, you can determine what needs to change, both between your ears and within your organization, to allow you to move closer to the audacious end of the leadership scale.

© Melinda Guillemette 2009