Try This: Three ways to be a bolder leader

Marketing Week columnist Thomas Barta offers quick, practical tips to help marketers solve perennial problems and become better leaders.

Thomas Barta Try This

Brave leaders change the world. Air traffic controller Anthonius Gunawan saved the 160 souls on board Batik Air 6231, by staying in the tower, so the plane could escape minutes before the earthquake struck. Berta Cáceres led the protests that stopped the Honduras Agua Zarca Dam being built, which would have destroyed her people’s livelihoods. And Xulhaz Mannan gave hope to the LGBT community of Bangladesh by publishing the country’s first LGBT magazine.

Companies need brave people too. People who climb the masts and fix the cables. Women who push for a seat in the boardroom. Marketers who push the door open to new markets.

But being brave is risky. Gunawan died in the earthquake. Cáceres and Mannan were murdered. And while firms claim they want brave leaders, each day unnamed executives get fired or sidelined for taking brave action.

Bravery equals purpose minus fear. This gives you two things to play with. Building more purpose and managing fear. Neither is easy. Both are powerful.

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To make change happen, build your brave. First, pick your battles. In companies, changing things is notoriously difficult. It’s hard to be brave on all fronts so select the cause that’s truly worth fighting for.

Second, build your change-purpose. Imagine if someone was trying to take your child, your partner, or your friend away. Would you be braver than normal? I guess so. We are braver when things matter to us. So, for your change project, raise your emotional involvement. Why does the issue really matter to you? Paint the picture, write the story. Building purpose is the fastest route to bravery.

Third, manage your fear. What could happen? Play out the worst-case scenarios: getting shouted at, getting sidelined, getting fired, etc. What would happen next? What would you do? Is there a life after these occurrences? If you’ve taken out a big loan for a Porsche, you may have to suck it up and be brave later (high burn rates produce corporate wimps). But most likely, your worst-case scenario won’t kill you.
More purpose or less fear? What would make you braver?

P.s. To find your brave, take The Marketing Society’s Braveometer test and get your free report. It closes on 31 March.

Thomas Barta is a marketing leadership expert, speaker and the co-author of ‘The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader’. He has teamed up with Marketing Week to launch the Marketing Leadership Masterclass, a new CPD-accredited online course designed to equip marketers with everything they need to become a better leader. To find out more and book your place visit

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