FBI agents working knotty and sophisticated cases such as those involving terrorism, cybercrime or counterintelligence need to be bold so they can make tough but smart decisions.
As the world has become more complex, the focus of FBI investigations has evolved from hunting bank robbers like John Dillinger and mobsters like Al Capone to better address the current threats to American lives.
It’s no secret that business and life are not as simple as they were, either. Executives, business owners and entrepreneurs need to take a bold stand and make tough decisions to overcome strong competition and market upheavals.
Being bold and showing courage can be scary. Yet it is precisely this behavior that will enable you to move forward, because history has shown us that those with the guts to step forward and lead change are the winners when things turn around.
Here are four ways to be bold and make tough decisions:
1. Be bold and courageous
Boldness comes from your head; courage comes from your heart. Boldness is a cerebral activity that recognizes opportunities, creates plans and assesses the danger. Courage is a visceral reaction that comes from your gut.
The word courage comes from the Latin root “cor,” which means heart. It represents our innermost feelings and propels us to take a chance without knowing the result.
Successful executives, entrepreneurs, and business owners are the ones who can marry boldness and courage because they can still be afraid but they do not let fear paralyze them. Once you give in to fear, a pattern begins to develop where you continue to avoid the fear by giving in to it.
If you listen carefully, however, there is a tiny voice inside, saying that you will die full of regrets for a life that might have been if you do not be courageous and move beyond your fears.
“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” ~ Will Willis
2. Be bold and move toward your fear
FBI Academy instructors would shout in my ear, “Are you feeling the pain yet?” “Is this still easy?” After I had convinced myself that I had not joined an organization full of sadists, I began to look at my discomfort and fears as a sign that I was moving out of my comfort zone. If I wanted to stay comfortable, I should have stayed in my old job.
To engage and defeat a superior foe, you will need to embrace danger. All opportunities bring danger with them, because they bring the risk and fear of the unknown.
To be bold means making tough decisions in spite of the danger. If you refuse to face your fear, it’s almost impossible to grow. In its simplest form, all behavior is the result of fear or desire. Fear is not something to be avoided. A strong mind has the mental toughness to recognize fear for what it is: a sign that you need to face the obstacle in front of you.
Your decisions do not always need to be right, but there is something powerful about having the courage and boldness to move toward our fears. Courage is not the absence of fear but moving ahead despite fear. If there is no fear, who needs courage?
“Bran thought about it. 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?' 'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him.” ~ George R.R. Martin, "A Game of Thrones"
3. Be bold and stay in front
To be seen as a bold and courageous leader you must be seen. We all know executives who hide out in their office all day, and we’ve all seen a pattern in troubled companies -- leadership equivocation on new initiatives, failure to help those struggling, and hoarding resources.
It takes courage to step in front of subordinates, but your credibility rests on not only being in front, but also being seen in front. When you start to hedge your bets, hoard information or fail to take a stand, you forfeit your right to be seen as a tough and fair leader.
When you lead from the front, you send the message that you would never ask someone else to do what you wouldn’t do. This not only inspires those around you, it reassures them that you are a team player and collaborate with others.
4. Be bold and embrace anxiety
I once had the subject of one of my investigations walk toward me like a charging bull after I asked him a direct question. I didn’t move or flinch.
My heart was beating fast and my palms were sweaty -- what if he attacked me? He didn’t succeed in intimidating me, and he stopped within inches of my face. I smiled and repeated the question.
I’m not the only one who has experienced anxiety. Perhaps there’s an important meeting in the morning and you’re asking: "Am I ready? Can I really do this? What if I mess up?"
Researchers have determined that a little anxiety may be just what you need to focus your attention and energy and perform at your peak. Somewhere between being freaked out and checked out is your anxiety sweet spot. You are motivated enough to succeed and yet not so anxious that you falter.
If you’re not pushing the boundary enough to produce a healthy dose of anxiety, you will never reach peak performance. If you do not feel a little bit scared about the consequences of tough decisions, there is no reason for you to be bold.
LaRae Quy was an FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years. She exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. government. As an FBI agent, she developed the mental toughness to survive in environments of risk, uncertainty, and deception. LaRae is the author of “Secrets of a Strong Mind” and “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths.” If you’d like to find out if you are mentally tough, get her free 45-question Mental Toughness Assessment. Follow her on Twitter.
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