Siew Ting Foo — Courageous Leadership: Navigating the Complexities of Enterprise Success

Talking Trends
3 min readNov 7, 2023
Photo by “Alexander Suhorucov” on Pexels

Leadership is an art, and like any art, it requires a diverse palette of skills. Some of these may come naturally to individuals, such as effective communication and the ability to inspire and motivate others. However, one essential element of leadership that doesn’t often come naturally is courage. In my journey of over 25 years in diverse leadership roles, I have come to appreciate the indispensable value of courage in leadership. True leadership, to me, is about charting unfamiliar territories and bravely confronting challenges. The article, titled “The World Needs your Courageous Leadership” captures the essence of this sentiment.

Courage is not an automatic response; it’s a skill that can be cultivated. Being a courageous leader means defying instinctive reactions when confronted with uncertainty, ambiguity, or tough decisions. It forms the cornerstone of leadership, laying the foundation for other vital leadership qualities, such as clarity of purpose, self-awareness, inclusivity, and integrative thinking. From my tenure at multinationals such as Unilever, Mars Incorporated, and HP Inc., I’ve witnessed first-hand how a company’s trajectory can be significantly influenced by a leader’s fortitude. Every choice we make, every strategy we implement, is a reflection of our own beliefs, our personal narratives, and our courage to forge ahead despite the uncertainties.

Leaders today find themselves in a constantly evolving landscape marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, often collectively referred to as VUCA. In these unpredictable conditions, courage is the skill that empowers leaders to move forward. It enables them to make decisions when historical data is insufficient or unhelpful.

It’s essential to recognize that humans are wired for fear, not courage. Common fears include the fear of failure, fear of looking foolish, and fear of damaging one’s reputation. These fears often deter individuals from taking action, pushing them toward inaction. Moreover, humans are biologically inclined to avoid losses, even if it means missing out on potential gains. These biases profoundly influence our decisions, often without us realizing it. Understanding these biases and behavior patterns is the first step toward transforming them. To become a courageous leader, you must confront your fears head-on and cultivate a new mindset.

Reading about the three pillars of a courageous mindset — embracing discomfort, risk, and failure — it struck me how often we, as leaders, shy away from these very aspects. But to truly evolve, to truly lead with purpose and impact, we must wholeheartedly accept these facets of leadership. It’s a sentiment I’ve tried to embody throughout my career, be it in bridging cultural nuances between the Asia Pacific and the U.S or in advocating for an inclusive and diverse workspace.

This article serves as a poignant reminder of what leadership entails in today’s complex world. Read the original article here.

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