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There is a key leadership quality missing in a lot of sectors. It is a quality that may sound sexist, but I actually find that women possess much more of this quality than men do, despite the masculine name for the quality. What is this quality you ask? What is the this rare, much needed quality that is disappearing throughout the marketplace? The adjective is “ballsy.”  The noun might be “backbone.” The founding fathers of the U.S.A. might have called it courage. If you need further words, you can use chutzpah, cojones, or bravery. Basically, it’s the ability to do or say the right thing because it is the right thing and it needs to be said or done.

Now, I would be interested to here from any non-American readers whether they find this quality missing within the leadership structures of their cultures as well.

I’ve seen it missing recently when observing a high placed official in one organization refuse to give direction, perhaps feeling that he didn’t want to push his opinions on someone else or because he didn’t want to deal with any unpleasant repercussions that might come from someone acting on that advice.

Patrick Lencioni, among others, has written recently about the lack of this trait in leadership’s willingness to deal with the loafer, the bad apple, or chronic underperformer at work. These “leaders” close their eyes to this person’s failures and the effects it is having on their co-workers. They ignore the loss of momentum and positive attitude in the office. The just do not want to deal with the uncomfortable conversation that would take place if they had the spine to tell this person, “shape up or ship out.” Instead they sit and hope that this person will leave of their own accord…which of course rarely happens.

How did we get in leadership positions without the capacity to face the unpleasant consequences of either giving advice or reprimanding poor performance or attitude?  Pardon the crudity/sexism of some of my words above, and what I’m about to say, but it seems that many men (and some women) need to find their manhood (and by that, I mean their reproductive organs).  I guess that should the next addition to a standard business degree. 

Where have you seen the lack of courage in the marketplace, politics, the religious establishment, etc?  What are you doing to change it?