Leadership and Conviction

We hear about vision. Passion. Expertise. Connections. Out-of-the-box creativity. Goal-setting. Persistence. All very important ingredients to leadership and success, no doubt.

But none are as central as…and, in fact, all will take their marching orders from…Conviction.

By conviction I am not talking about a prison record. What I mean is a deep persuasion that something is right, and must be done.

A leader is convinced that an idea, and course of action, must be pursued. This conviction drives decision, promotes action, accepts risk, overcomes doubt, and draws others into the endeavor. If necessary, it walks through walls.

Conviction develops over time, through both positive and negative experiences, through seeing the successes and failings of others. Eventually, it seeps into your soul and you become persuaded that you MUST _________ (fill in the blank).

The best marketing will also draw its inspiration from conviction – that the company, or product, or service, is the best. That it must be known. This is the wellspring of true (not manufactured) word-of-mouth marketing – the conviction has now spread, and is spreading, to the audience.

This is not only true in business. A parent is, above all things, a leader – taking a little life and shaping and molding it into a full-fledged adult member of society. This requires conviction – that the greatest impact we have may well be through others, that the next generation is more important than my immediate gratification, that the hard (and often unglamorous) work of building now will bear fruit in years to come.

Conviction, of course, can be a double-edged sword. Some tyrannical people manage to convince themselves that they are right…and seek to destroy others in the process of carrying out their ruinous beliefs. Some can even inspire others, through the power of conviction, to take leave of their senses and drink Kool-Aid in a forsaken jungle. But far more (who do not make the 6:00 pm news) build businesses, create charities, donate organs, mentor young people, and care for the sick – because it is right. Because they must.

Those that manage others may or may not have this restless level of conviction. Those who perform tasks may actually do their work (less effectively, I’d argue) without it. Leaders, however, are a different story.

Conviction does not guarantee success. But a lack of it almost guarantees failure. Over the years, I’ve come to a number of juncture points where I’ve had to make bold – sometimes disruptive and costly – decisions. In each case, it was conviction that ruled the day. When you believe that a thing is right – when you are compelled to move forward no matter the cost – then you stand the best chance of success.

Conviction leads you to take a course. It feeds into persistence, which drives you to stay the course. And that’s the shortest path to results.

(Image credit)


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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

6 Responses to Leadership and Conviction

  1. @mckra1g says:

    Between you and @LouImbriano, I got my share of pep talks today. Thanks, Steve. 🙂

  2. Sounds like you have experienced transistions similar to the one we are going through right now. Trying to relocate to Ca after 2 yrs of unemployment in IL. With a sick young adult. Marfan Syndrome. Read Blog post entitled “Coming Clean” http://bit.ly/hi9tjv
    Good article. To the point and spot on.

  3. Steve G says:

    Hey Steve –

    Good Read – your opening statement says it all. As a leader, if you don’t truly believe in your decision, than no one will and you are destined to fail. If you have any doubts in your plan, than how can you expect your team to believe in your plan. You might end up getting a bunch of people who are compliant but not committed.

    And true, as you suggest, conviction can be a double edged sword. Some leaders will move full steam ahead without a care for who gets destroyed in the process. And as you mention, even worse, inspire others (through their power of conviction and intimidation) to join the fight and as you put it so eloquently, drink the Kool Aid.

    Here’s my question, I think as a leader, the dilemma is when does one know that your conviction should take over and go full steam ahead, and when should you ask for support and listen to others and maybe pull back on the throttle (your conviction) Does asking for advice mean your conviction is weak? (Is there even such a thing as weak conviction???) Is there a time when you just say, we are going with this idea/direction because I (the leader) know what is best?

    Thanks Steve for your post and thoughts – and as usual, it made me think.


    • Steve, I don’t believe it’s an either-or. As my small group of advisers will attest, you can proceed boldly forward with plans while QA-ing them with trusted friends. Personal conviction should generally be filtered through wise group consensus for the best results…

  4. Kneale Mann says:

    Is there something going around? Or am I gravitating to the ass kicking, walk through brick wall kinda people these days? Steve, this is one of your best posts and perfectly timed as decisions – costly or not – must be made. Thank-you, sir.

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