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Why Great Leadership Requires Conviction

Leaders are often responsible for implementing change, promoting a new approach, generating enthusiasm for a given course of action, solving a problem, or seizing an opportunity. All of these actions have one thing in common: they require conviction. Can a person be a leader without conviction? Possibly, but they can’t be a great leader who motivates and inspires others to change. Although senior leadership sets the strategy and the course for the organization, it is up to mid-level leaders and supervisors to execute it. Without conviction from leadership, it is difficult to maintain the momentum necessary to capture hearts and minds at every level.

Put simply, conviction is a prerequisite of effective leadership. Let’s discuss why.

Conviction Breeds Results

Conviction serves as the foundation for any type of initiative, whether it’s changing a culture or executing a strategy. When an initiative starts without conviction, the team often has to double back and reassess, reducing productivity and delaying deadlines. On the other hand, when leadership has personal conviction about the plan, they are far better able to lead their team and instill the same conviction in their employees.

Conviction allows individuals and teams to overcome obstacles when they arise because they have a strong belief in what they’re doing, regardless of the struggles and challenges faced along the way. Without this conviction, obstacles can quickly become permanent barriers to success. Conviction also sparks passion, which is a great energizer because passion and energy are infectious to those around you. Conviction helps overcome resistance, both external and internal. Resistance comes in many forms, but having a foundation of conviction allows you to persevere in the face of it.

All of these benefits of having conviction—overcoming obstacles, sparking passion, and overcoming resistance—lead to results.

A Formula for Conviction

Although it’s true that conviction can come naturally to some leaders, it is also a concept that can be taught and nurtured. From a kernel of passion, conviction can be fully developed by ensuring that these four elements are present:

1. Knowledge

Conviction must be built on a foundation of knowledge. This can come from a variety of sources, such as research, observation, experience, and judgment. Leaders must have deep subject matter knowledge to support initiatives that require conviction, whether it’s a product launch, culture change, or market expansion. Without this solid foundation, there is very little to build upon. Knowledge lays the groundwork for conviction because it gives a reason, most often based on data and metrics, for change.

2. Passion

Passion is the essential element of conviction that enables leaders to inspire others. Passion is persuasive and it has the power to ignite conviction because building an inner fire helps light the fires of those around you. However, in order to be effective, it must be genuine, deep, and heartfelt. Passion is the emotional element of conviction. It gives people a reason to care about the greater strategy. One way leaders use passion to get their employees to care is by relating how achieving a shared goal will affect them on a personal level.

3. Purpose

In order for a leader’s conviction to transmit to others in the organization, there must be a clear understanding of the reasons, rationale, and benefits of the expected outcome.

  • Reasons demonstrate why we are taking a specific action or adopting a certain approach.
  • Rationale explains why we were motivated to take action. This serves as a window into the leader’s thinking that led to their personal convictions.
  • Benefits describe the value of this course of action and what consequences we should expect.

Passion alone will not keep others excited about initiatives; there must also be a purpose. Purpose is the logical, intellectual element of conviction. It gives everyone something to work toward and a basis for holding each other accountable, even when things get tough.

4. Belief

Leaders don’t always know for certain that the approach they are taking is the right one, but a key element of conviction is that they believe that it is. However, belief can’t stand alone when building conviction. It’s not enough to just feel that something is a good idea; it has to be backed up with knowledge, passion, and purpose. Without the belief that a new, different future is possible, conviction can fall flat. Leaders must believe that the untested, unproven, untried approach will work because they can visualize its success. Belief is the visionary element of conviction.

Proceed with Conviction

All four of these elements are necessary for conviction in leadership. Without one, the others can falter. The combination of knowledge, passion, purpose, and belief is a powerful one, and the leaders who master it will drive organizations to success. When a leader shows conviction that they’ve chosen the best course of action, they create certainty in everyone who follows them and allow them to absorb this belief and the accompanying emotional state. The next time you find yourself in a position of leading change in your organization, ask yourself if you have the knowledge, passion, purpose, and belief to inspire others to follow you.


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