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February 22, 2024

The Path of Gracious Perseverance: Developing Leadership Courage for Business Impact 

By Summary by IT Revolution

We’ve all encountered situations at work where politics, opinions, and power dynamics seem to drive decision-making more than facts and customer needs. These dynamics can lead even the most passionate leaders down an unfulfilling path of just “going along to get along.” But there is another way, embodied in what speakers Paul Gaffney and Courtney Kissler call the “path of gracious perseverance,” which they presented at the 2023 DevOps Enterprise Summit in Las Vegas

On this path, leaders stay focused on business outcomes, customer value, and facts instead of capitulating to organizational power plays. They question decisions driven by politics or opinions instead of evidence. They find ways to inject reality and data back into the conversation without being combative. And they inspire their teams by demonstrating personal leadership courage in nudging the organization toward greater effectiveness.

The Need for Courage Before Authority  

It’s easy to think that senior executives can afford to rock the boat while more junior leaders cannot. However, the courage to focus on organizational effectiveness has to be developed before those senior roles are ever attained. Leaders who eventually reach higher levels likely demonstrated those skills early on. 

As Gaffney and Kissler noted, having the right environment where people feel safe surfacing reality is critical. But leaders still have to find the courage to question power structures respectfully, lead with facts over opinions, and focus on business outcomes over politics. These behaviors ultimately create an environment where more junior staff also feel empowered to speak up.

Trading “Efficient Mediocrity” for Lasting Impact

A commitment to organizational effectiveness over politics is critical not just for leader development but for enterprise success. As Gaffney and Kissler noted, efficiency without effectiveness leads to “efficient mediocrity”—slick presentations about delivering small feature requests without questioning their relevance. 

Leaders seeking genuine fulfillment focus more meeting time on effectiveness—questioning whether their products create real customer and business value. This focus ultimately leads to greater career satisfaction. More importantly, it’s what transforms companies from reactive “feature factories” into organizations driving transformational impact.

Reflection is Critical

As leaders, the path of gracious perseverance starts with self-reflection about where your own time and attention go. What percentage of your calendar focuses on effectiveness versus efficiency? Do you question decisions driven by opinions or PowerPoints instead of data? Do you take time to truly understand customer needs before executing requests?

The next step is empowering your team to help drive effectiveness-related conversations. Share facts transparently, reward critical thinking, and make space for questioning assumptions. Set the expectation that decisions will connect clearly to business outcomes—not slideware.

Finally, have the courage to start small, even early in your career. Questioning the status quo respectfully but consistently is how lasting change happens. You’ll not only boost your own leadership capability, you’ll inspire others and transform organizational culture along the way.

To watch the full presentation, visit the IT Revolution Video Library here:

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Summary by IT Revolution

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