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10 Tips for Developing Your Leadership “Cojones”

10 Tips for Developing Your Leadership “Cojones”

Dan McCarthy | Great Leadership

August 12, 2010

Note from Dan: while I normally write a PG blog, this post is rated PG13, parental discretion is advised.

Sarah Palin recently said on Fox News Sunday that President Obama doesn’t have “the cojones” to effectively address the issue of illegal immigration.

Yikes, when’s the last time you heard a political leader accused of that? Actually, according to my extensive 10 minutes worth of Google research, not since then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright famously said in 1996 that Cuba’s shooting down of planes flown by anti-Castro exiles was “not cojones” but “cowardice.”

So what does it mean to “not have the cojones” as a leader, and does it really matter? And at the risk of being crude, what exactly are “cojones”?

Yes, Great Leadership will be the first to tackle these tough questions.

We’ll start with a definition. According to Wikipedia, "Cojones is a vulgar Spanish word for testicles, denoting courage. In English, as a loanword, it similarly means courage or brazenness.”

So we’re talking about leadership courage here. And in the context of leadership courage, it’s a gender neutral thing.

Does courage matter? According to most of the research on leadership effectiveness I’ve seen, courage ranks pretty high as an important leadership characteristic.

We all know this, right? We sure know it when we don’t see it. Who wants to work for a manager that:

• Won’t take tough stands with others

• Doesn’t step up to the issues

• Is intimidated by others in power

• Avoids conflict

• Won’t look out for the best interests of the team

• Can’t make a tough decision

In other words, a wimp.

As a leader, I would hate to be called out as a wimp. Ouch. However, if it happens to you, there is hope. Like any valid leadership characteristic, there is no “courage gene”. Someone does not emerge from the womb courageous – it’s something that can be learned and developed.

Next: 10 Tips for Managers >>

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