Cowardice or courageous leadership: What is the most effective on the organisation’s progress?

There is a common saying, which denotes that everything falls and rises on leadership.

Leadership takes on various forms and styles, based on the environment it is required to lead.  Although there are different types of leadership, this article will narrow them to courageous and cowardice leadership and how these styles impact organisational effectiveness. 

Courageous leadership, according to Wikipedia, exists “whenever a person engages in right action at the potential expense of their own comfort. Cowardice, on the other hand, exists when someone chooses self-protection at the expense of right action.” How many leaders do you know that have either shown elements of weakness and courage in their leadership?

Courageous leaders use their talents, position, and knowledge to serve the voiceless. The late Justice Ruth Ginsburg said: “Always do something outside yourself. You are a member of a community. You are blessed with having certain talents. You should use your education and talents for people who are not as fortunate as you are”.

A Forbes magazine article titled ‘Signs of Cowardly Leadership’ says cowardly leaders are “afraid to bring issues up. They won't decide, advocate, or take ownership. At best, they will ask for more data. These leaders live in the short-term, putting off painful action; allowing the problems to fester; and praying the day of reckoning will hit after they have left”.

Below are further indicators of cowardice leadership according to the article:

  • They badmouth and share derogatory statements about other leaders to everyone.
  • They disappear. In the busiest times, they put in leave, bury themselves in work, hide in their office, or cower behind policies, emails, and letters.
  • They often use excuses like: “There’s nothing I can do”, or It is not in my power”.
  • They cut people off to avoid a discussion, and lash out to intimidate, as they must always have their way.
  • They panic at the slightest hint of dissent.  They become paranoid and desperate and adopt an “Are you with us or against us” mantra.
  • They ask their “supporters” to spy or conduct witch-hunts to intimidate and purge the sceptics.
  • They put up tough and distant personas, to scare and intimidate the people. 

Leadership is not easy. It often calls leaders to commit and act on their convictions, even if those convictions are not supported by corporate policies. It requires leaders to make hard choices, take risks and do what’s unpopular and right. However, some leaders rely on their personalities, to deflect and avoid issues that require them to act. 

However, the way leaders live, and act is far more important than what they say. When there’s incongruence between what a leader believes, says and does, people under that leadership will be drained and demoralised.

The organisation will be mired in an environment riddled with distrust, dissension, and doubt when leaders keep vacillating between what they say and what they do.  Whenever a leader contradicts themselves, it also brings confusion and further harms the organisation.

Leaders view themselves as heroes of their stories. So, they will defend, deny or rationalise whatever contradicts that view. As I conclude, I would like each leader to do introspection and decipher how their leadership has impacted the effectiveness in the organisations they represent.  Lastly, I dare all leaders to live outside themselves. 

*Morna Ikosa is a Senior Corporate Communications and Brand Reputation Strategist, CPRP, MA, AKA Fixer. To connect, send her a shout-out at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or find her on LinkedIn.






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Last modified on Thursday, 02 March 2023 20:36

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