The economic realities that began in 2001 and trickled into 2002 have been dissected and studied by the pundits; lived by business owners, executives and employees; and speculated on by market players. Now is the time to act in a way that creates the positive forward-momentum needed for a dynamic 2002.

Enough with the waiting for someone else to make a move or hoping that the tide will change on its own. Now is the time for courageous leadership and conscious action.

Some of the benefits of this proactive approach include the potential for:

? Increased momentum toward a revitalized vision and renewed sense of purpose;
? Higher morale among employees through confidence in the business and leadership;
? The infusion of new ideas, and a recalibrating of outdated processes; and
? More effective, dynamic communication;

... each of which help inspire morale, retain employees and boost productivity.

What is courageous leadership?

By many definitions, leaders are courageous by nature. They help inspire and guide others toward new vistas, through tough times and over seemingly insurmountable hurdles.

In the workplace, leaders are typically identified by their titles, and may demonstrate the courageous behavior mentioned above. But imagine a group, department or company where "citizen-leaders" are invigorated by the notion that they can be courageous every week -- regardless of their title or role. Picture the results of a team with such high morale and unified commitment to their own group mission, as well as the company's, that its members feel a true sense of ownership and responsibility. Or, visualize the leader who inspires a level of momentum that ushers in a new, more effective way of working and a stronger sense of purpose. All are possible, and each requires courage.

How can courage manifest in the workplace?

Powerful acts of courage in the workplace are possible each week. Yet we shy away from many such actions or expressions because they have such a high potential for "rocking the status quo," and would demand that we walk our talk about values, mission and purpose -- both as individuals and as an organization. Examples include:

? Providing honest input and counsel
? Choosing not to lay people off simply for a short-term boost in stock prices
? Presenting outside-the-norm ideas
? Sharing an alternative viewpoint
? Speaking up, rather than being complicit in silence
? Not falling prey to the perception that "working longer hours equals increased productivity"
? Advocating for a potential new hire without much direct experience
? Not settling for the status quo.

There are no doubt many other "small acts of courage," depending on a particular organization's culture and operational (and interaction) norms. In one organization, simply disagreeing might be an act of courage; in another, a courageous act might seem much greater. Yet both require a break from unproductive norms.

How can you tap your courage?

Courageous leadership spawns from a true sense of vision, and a commitment to that vision that transcends the inevitable rollercoaster ride that we call business. It is this vision that sustains a leader through the fear that precedes courage, and in fact, serves as the fuel to blast through the fear toward action. Courage, but its very nature, requires facing and moving through fear rather than settle for a state of "old familiar" that doesn't allow the development and sharing of gifts, skills and talents.

The first step in harnessing your courage is to develop a vision that represents your authentic self and goals, and aligning that vision with the business and its goals.

What can you do -- today -- to become more courageous?

In the wake of the 2001 economic recession, courage and initiative are much-needed qualities for every group and business. To foster courageous leadership in your organization or group, begin by discussing these "food-for-thought and dialogue" questions. Your responses may help shape and clarify your vision, provide a well of motivation to sustain your efforts, and help uncover the opportunities to be courageous in the workplace:

? What is your vision for the business/group/department? (Be as specific as possible.)
? In what instances have your co-workers been courageous in the workplace?
? What impressions did those co-workers and actions give you?
? How do the concepts of authenticity, leadership, courage and initiative relate to one another, and how can they fuel one another?
? How, specifically, can you be more courageous in your role at work?
? What tangible benefits will arise from your courageous action?
? What communication skill would help you become more courageous?
? What other questions can you add to this list to lead you through fear, into courage and ultimately to a higher peak of performance, meaningfulness and satisfaction?

Copyright 1997-2002 Ivy Sea Inc., San Francisco. All rights reserved. Limited duplication or distribution allowed with prior permission from and credit to Ivy Sea Inc.

Jamie Walters is the founder and Chief Vision & Strategy Officer at Ivy Sea, Inc. in San Francisco, CA.

This information provides food for thought rather than counsel specifically designed to meet the unique needs of your organization. Please use it mindfully. The most effective approaches are those that have been tailored to your unique needs and organizational culture, so don't hesitate to engage the assistance of an adviser whose perspective you trust and value. Have questions? Send Ivy Sea an e-mail.