Franchisors Influence Franchisees with Authentic Courage

Posted on February 27, 2014

Franchise leadership is everybody leading the project forward.

If you want to influence your franchisees, they must not only know your vision. They must feel as though they’re a part of it. 

To do that, you will need authentic courage. 

What’s authentic courage?

I get the phrase “authentic courage” from a novel which, as Hemingway put it, is the source of “all modern American literature:” The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

Huckleberry Finn & Borrowed Courage

Sherburn and Boggs: Gunman vs Drunken Stupor

What I’m about to quote comes from chapter XXII, a chapter that is a hinge moment. In this scene, a man—Sherburn—has shot a local, boisterous drunk named Boggs. Here’s the story…

Local drunk, Boggs, was picking a fight with another drunk, Sherburn. Sherburn warned Boggs, “I’m tired of this; but I’ll endure it till one o’clock. Till one o’clock, mind—no longer.” The town tried to calm Boggs, but Boggs was too drunk. “Boggs rode off blackguarding Sherburn as loud as he could yell, all down the street.”

Well, one o’clock came around, Boggs was still mouthing off, and Sherburn took out his gun and shot Boggs on the spot. people, in an uproar, mobilized. They decided to hang Sherburn. When they get to his house, they tore down his fence and ran to sabotage him. They were stopped, however, by the awful presence of Sherburn. As he stared at them, gun in hand, he let out this monstrous monologue.In this monologue, Sherburn convinced the mob that they didn’t actually want to hang him at all. Here is what he said.

Sherburn’s Monologue

“You didn’t want to come. The average man don’t like trouble and danger. You don’t like trouble and danger. But if only half a man—like Buck Harkness, there—shouts ‘Lynch him, lynch him!’ you’re afraid to back down—afraid you’ll be found out to be what you are—cowards—and so you raise a yell, and hang yourselves onto that half-a-man’s coat tail, and come raging up here, swearing what big things you’re going to do. The pitifulest thing out there is a mob: that’s what an army is—a mob; they don’t fight with courage that’s born in them, but with courage that’s borrowed from their mass, and from their officers.”

Leadership and Borrowed Courage

Twain was a genius. In this chapter, he may refer to officers and soldiers in the Civil War. But no matter what, we learn this: too many times, we lead with borrowed courage. 

Franchise Leadership & Borrowed Courage

What is borrowed courage? Borrowed courage is an artificial vision.

You see it? Under borrowed courage the leader’s vision always profits his self. In turn, the followers do what the leader says. 

In short, borrowed courage is bad leadership.

The Mob: A Group that Borrows its Vision

Let’s focus on the mob for just a moment.

When you see “mob” think of your franchise, your employees, community, team, church, local business.

Buck Harkness convinced the mob to act out his vision. He tells them “this is the way things are. Here is the problem, and my solution is the only solution. Let’s kill Sherburn.” The mob, in turn, agreed.

Borrowed courage is an adopted vision. The mob doesn’t make the plan theirs; they do not become co-owners of the vision. Whether ethical, immoral, or destructive, the mob accepts the plan uncritically. The charismatic leader has convinced them this is the only way out. 

If courage is facing dangerous or painful problems with strength and vitality, then borrowed courage is pretending to face something dangerous or painful. For the mob, the vision is artificial. They may have a plan. They may have a solution. They may even have a slight sliver of the original vision. But no matter what, Twain’s point is clear: they do not have a say in the plan. 

Thus, borrowed courage is pretending to be the leader.

You may say, “well, that’s all good and well. Only one can lead and the rest must follow. There must be someone leading the way.” This may be true. But what I’m suggesting goes deeper than this. We shouldn’t have fake leaders. Instead, I suggest we transform employees with our vision and empower them to be leaders. 

 In short, we must teach our employees to have authentic courage. 

Franchise Leadership with Authentic Courage

What is authentic courage? Precisely what borrowed courage is not: transformed followers and shared ownership of a vision. 

1. Franchise Leadership: Transform you Employees

Let’s start with a distinction made by James MacGregor Burns in his Putizer-winning leadership book, called Leadership. 

The relations of most leaders and followers are transactional—leaders approach followers with an eye to exchanging one thing for another: jobs for votes, or subsidies for campaign contributions. Such transactions form the bulk of the relationships among leaders and followers, especially in  groups, legislatures, and parties. Transforming leadership, while more complex, is more potent. The transforming leader recognizes and exploits an existing need or demand of a potential follower. But, beyond that, the transforming leader looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower. The result of transforming leadership is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents.

Let’s take this a part, piece by piece.

We have transformational leaders compared to transactional leaders.

a. Transactional leaders want something from the employees: they exchange service for money, jobs for votes, good performances for wage raises and promised sales.

b. Transformational leaders do something more. Instead of treating employees as transactions, they treat them as people with a capacity to do something greater. The transformational leader empowers and inspires his employees. 

In short, when under the leadership of a transactional leader, the vision is (again) borrowed. On the contrary, when under the leadership of a transformational leader, the vision is always authentically shared by the community. When the vision is shared, when the people take ownership, when the minority feel a part of something, transformation occurs.

2. Shared Vision: Case Study of National Management Resources

When a person is transformed, he is changed, usually in a positive. The way to transform an individual, is to create a vision in his head, and empower him to enact that vision on his own.

Thus, shared vision involves everyone: it gives employees, managers, and owners a purpose and a personal meaning within the larger franchise.

To talk of leadership in the abstract can be helpful. But I want to direct our attention to a real example of shared vision: National Management Resources.

At LaGrange College (my undergraduate college), National is the on-campus maintenance service. National employs dozens of workers: housekeepers, dorm-sweepers, groundsmen, electricians, carpenters, gardeners, events planners, and project managers.

Whenever I see one, I often stop to talk. When talking about National as a whole, they use inclusive and communal language. They see themselves as not just parts in a whole, but indispensable organs in a living breathing thing.

Each one has this common vision: to effectively preserve the college and to create relationships with students.

As one explained to me, “without the housekeepers, the dorms would be a mess. Without the groundsmen, the lawns would be trashed and wild. Without the electricians and carpenters, buildings would fall into disrepair. Without our project manager, we would have no organization. None of us is better than any other. We all work together to make this thing run right.”

It is this common vision that I speak of. Each worker works for the same goal. Each person shares the same vision. Each person is, thus, a leader. 

Franchise leadership needs to have this kind of vision. Each employee in the franchise should not feel like an alien in an unknown environment, but as an owner sharing a common vision.

In short, authentic courage involves empowering employees to face problems and difficulties with a real shared vision. In turn, you transform your employees. You share your vision. In turn, your employees face problems and make their own critical decisions.

Franchise Leadership: Questions

As practical leaders, we must ask (and answer) these questions:

1. I feel like I am transactional leader. How can I become a transformational leader?

2. What can I do to share my vision/franchise plan with my employees?

3. Can I really transform my maintenance crew, my janitors, my cashiers? Is this too idealistic, or can it really be done?

4. What are the consequences of a shared vision? Will I lose power, control, leadership?

5. Can I really inspire authentic courage in my employees? If so, what should I do next to inspire this?


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