Leadership takes courage. Your decisions will not always be popular. Sometimes, you will need to persevere in the face of strong opposition. However, true leaders have a moral courage that allows them to press onward. Nelson Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Legendary actor John Wayne stated it this way, “Courage is being scared to death—but saddling up anyway.” Leaders understand that while fear can creep in, it can’t keep you from pushing forward.
My interviewee this week, Cary Crawley, President of Mississippi Iron Works, is one of those entrepreneurial leaders who has the courage and persistence to drive his organization to success. Crawley, a Clinton native, started Mississippi Iron Works in 1985, and he still leads the outside sales team. With over 29 employees, he has grown the company to be a leading provider of iron doors, handrails and fences for commercial and residential. Crawley understands that for any company to succeed you have to have SALES. I personally have seen many companies with great products and people, but no ability to sell. Unfortunately, most of those businesses are no longer around.
Crawley learned the importance of selling early in his life. He shared, “My mother was in the direct sales business, and I began working with her during summers. She taught me the importance of effective selling.” Crawley said that two of the most influential quotes that have inspired him are Churchill’s famous statement, “Never, never give up. Success is not final and failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.” He also pointed to famed football coach Vince Lombardi who said, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
As a leader, Crawley believes it is important to set the example for his team. In his organization, this means that he is often on the front lines meeting with customers and calling on prospective customers. He noted, “I have always had the unique desire to get out and make sales calls — even cold calling. My philosophy is Whatever It Takes!” Crawley went on to note, “The formula for failure is sitting behind a desk waiting for the phone to ring. Why put off for another minute something that can help you and your company now?”
It is natural to let fear creep in when faced with the challenges of running a successful business. However, Crawley emphasized, “Don’t ever let fear prevent you from being successful. The only way to cure fear is to take action. Inaction leaves you paralyzed.” Dale Carnegie once said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Crawley also emphasizes the importance of delegation. He noted, “Focus on the one thing you can do BEST – and do alone – and go do it! If somebody can do something 80% as well as you can – then let them do it. Delegating is not abdicating – don’t pass the buck without making sure it gets done. You still need to be there to manage. Periodically check to ensure it’s getting done properly.”
Sometimes, being an effective leader means summoning the courage to proceed in the face of fear.
We have to “saddle up” and press on. For leaders and entrepreneurs, it is not the absence of fear to strive for, but the courage to lead in spite of it. I was inspired by Crawley’s focus and persistence as a leader, and I know he will continue to be successful because of it.
» Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.
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