What Makes a Leader Bold?

Volumes of books describe various types of leaders and leadership styles, from servant leadership to transformational models. The subject gets a great deal of attention. But in today’s climate of innovation, rapid change, and the need for social solutions, a new leadership style has emerged: the Bold Leader.

In this article, Bold Business is introducing our new series that will feature a Bold Leader of the week. This will capture leaders who we feel demonstrate Bold Leadership in their fields of expertise.

In our opinion. Bold leaders have an array of characteristics and behaviors that foster success. And their make up can be in various roles within organizations. In fact, such leaders have been recognized as being twice as effective in comparison to those who lack boldness. So what exactly is a bold leader, and what goes into making one?

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Defining the Terms – What is Bold and What is Bold Leadership?

What words come to mind when you think of the word “bold”? By definition, bold describes being fearless in the face of danger. Yet being fearless can result in recklessness, and a healthy dose of fear can provide insight and guidance. Other common words that might come to mind include confidence, assuredness, and adventurousness. All of these associations support a notion of boldness.

What about the word “leadership”? In many instances, leadership is defined by a list of traits and behaviors common to a leader, traits that may vary based on leadership style. As a general definition, leadership is best described as the art of motivating others to act toward a common goal. Naturally, different leadership styles achieve this through different behaviors. Bold leaders are no different.

Being a bold leader does not mean being bold without a clear vision, direction or purpose. Bold leaders channel their bold ideas, opinions, and actions to motivate, inspire, and guide others toward a greater good.

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” – Ken Kesey

Today, more than ever, this type of leadership is in high demand.

Ken Kesey Defines Bold Leadership and what it means to be a Bold Leader
Ken Kesey discusses Bold Leadership

Ten Characteristics That Define a Bold Leader

Bold leaders can be recognized by the actions they take and the behaviors they exhibit. They are the ones who stand out in the crowd, challenge norms, and think outside the box. These leaders gain the respect and trust of others while empowering them to be their best. And they do so with humility and a clear vision in mind.

Here are ten classic traits that best characterize bold leaders in their approaches to guide others and champion success:

  • Taking Risks 

    Part of being bold means having the confidence and courage to take chances. Bold leadership embraces dynamic and competitive landscapes and takes calculated risks in striving for success. Taking risks also means bold leaders will sometimes fail. But rather than seeing these instances as failures, bold leaders see these as opportunities to learn and grow. At the same time, they encourage risk-taking and growth among others.

  • Challenging the Status Quo 

    Bold leaders continually strive for excellence and improvement. Being on the constant lookout for new opportunities for success is an essential trait. As such, they are the ones most apt to initiate innovative growth, progress, and action in new directions. In contrast to complacency and contentment, these individuals perpetually seek better paths to take. It is through these pursuits that new revelations and achievements are realized.

  • Driven by Results

    All types of leadership require vision and clearly defined goals. Similarly, great leaders also identify key results that guide their strategies and decisions. However, these individuals tend to pursue bold missions that are disruptive, innovative and creative. Not only do they keep their eye on the prize, but the prize is one that is truly exceptional. In the process, bold leaders are able to achieve much more than others would have ever anticipated both financially and through the positive social impact on society.

  • Showing Confidence in Others and Themselves 

    For bold leaders, the saying that confidence is contagious is perfectly accurate. Through diligence, knowledge, and continual improvement, these individuals gain confidence in their capacity to succeed. They also respect and trust in others. This empowers others to perform at their best, and help the organization accomplish its goals. These bold leadership characteristics create organizational environments conducive to great success.

  • Empowering Others to Succeed 

    Some leaders choose to give orders and be the authority figure. But bold leaders appreciate the value of the human spirit and collective achievement. Not only do these individuals exhibit excellent leadership abilities, but they also empower others through mentorship and guidance. By aligning individual goals with organizational objectives, bold leaders greatly enhance chances for success… while celebrating the success of others along the way.

  • Able to Delegate 

    The ability to recognize and recruit top talent reflects a leader’s interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. Bold leaders are a great judge of character and skill, and they foster cultures of trust, respect, and confidence. These attributes allow them to effectively utilize others’ talents efficiently and effectively. Ultimately, this creates an environment where others excel, and organizational goals are realized. Understanding that they alone cannot achieve the mission, bold leaders realize the importance of a team-based approach to success.

  • Acting Ethically and Responsibly 

    Core features of great leaders are their ability to be self-aware and to know their core values. Through these insights, bold leadership proceeds with integrity and honesty. Likewise, bold leaders hold themselves accountable for their decisions, as well as their organization’s, performance. As stewards of valuable resources, bold leaders understand and accept the responsibilities bestowed on them. By allowing integrity and ethics to be their guide, they have confidence the end result will be positive.

  • Championing Change and Diversity

    Dynamic environments demand the ability to roll with punches. Bold leaders not only accept that change is inevitable, but they also champion change to attain advantage and success. In many instances, such change is innovative and disruptive to existing norms. But through bold leadership, these individuals effectively communicate the vision to others and empower them to adapt in the process. Through their charisma and ability to convey the need for change, they easily overcome resistance. Ultimately, this leads to a transformative culture that increases the chances of ongoing achievements. They also see the importance of diversity and inclusion in how they lead and value diversity of thought.

  • Leading by Example and with Humility 

    From ethics to confidence, bold leaders serve as tremendous role models for others. This not only includes followers within an organization but also those outside it as well. Yet bold leaders also keep their egos in check. Humility allows them to see failures as opportunities, and to demonstrate compassion and concern for others. And humility is the secret ingredient that drives them toward continual improvement – even when they have already attained unfathomable goals.

  • Believing in Changing Society for the Better 

    As part of their expansive vision, a bold leader embraces goals beyond profits and the bottom line. These individuals take pride in having a responsibility to not just the organization, but to society and humanity as well. Naturally, they have leadership responsibilities to the organization and to followers. But they happily accept a much larger mission for their personal calling. The ability to create win-wins and identify innovative solutions to address social needs is typical of a bold leader. Through these efforts, bold leaders contribute to the betterment of everyone’s lives in ways not previously conceived.

“Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Bold Leaders Are Everywhere

Many people have the misconception that bold leaders must have larger-than-life personas. Some do have them. But it is not a requirement for bold leadership. In fact, leaders like Warren Buffet, Tony Hsieh and Tim Cook live modest lifestyles out of the spotlight.

True boldness in leadership does not come from shouting loudly and showcasing accomplishments. Bold leadership incorporates the traits cited above to create positive change for all.

With this definition in mind, you begin to notice bold leaders in unassuming locations. It is these leaders who truly change the world, making it a better place for society in the process.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor but without folly.” – Jim Rohn

black and white logo of Bold Wire for Bold Business
The Bold Wire delivers our latest global news, exclusive top stories, industry leading infographics, powerful interviews and bold opinions. It is a free weekly newsletter.