Recently, I had the honor of addressing the annual meeting of the Construction Suppliers' Association in Hilton Head, S.C. During my executive briefing on leadership and management excellence, many participants offered their own experiences in these trying times. I was struck by how many in the group are gallantly facing incredibly tough situations within severely down markets. Perhaps you have many of the same issues:

Do I lay off staff? If so, then who?

How do I manage and motivate those who remain?

Do I expand product lines or cut back?

Is it time to get out of some services?

Is it time to expand new lines? Which ones? How do we fund them?

Should I reconsider that buyout offer?

While there is no magic formula or simple solution to any of these issues, the one common thread that weaves through each is the absolute necessity for the decision-maker to display courage. Here are five powerful truths to remember on courage.

1. Courageous leaders display courage. Courage is a necessary component of great leadership. War hero Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said that "leaders who lack courage aren't leaders." Be willing to show the courage necessary to your managers, customers, and suppliers through your actions, words, and decisions.

2. Courageous leaders face their fears. In today's volatile LBM industry, if you are not afraid, you are not thinking. Mark Twain once said, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear." The best way to master your fears is to not let them consume you. Face them, deal with them, and move on.

3. Courageous leaders take charge. Here is an easy way to tell if your management team has courage: in tough times, do they take charge or take cover? Today, in my other job as president of a privately held, commercial cleaning company with 2,000-plus customers nationwide, I am in the midst of making some very tough personnel and operations calls. The founder of the company recently confided in me that I am making the decisions he needed to make years ago. Leaders must be willing to take charge when things get rough, or risk the very future of their yards to chance or market whims. People do not follow cowards.

4. Courageous leaders expect opposition. Do not kid yourself: when you take a courageous and proper stance, you will face resistance. At the same time, you will be amazed at the amount of support you will get for the decision. Prepare yourself for the opposition, but remain true to your convictions.

5. Courageous leaders fix what isn't broke. You may think there is enough going wrong today with your market share, customer base, or supply chain without adding to the misery. But I encourage you to consider that this may be the best time in years to fix things that may be going fine but you know need to change. One timeless leadership truism is good leaders fix what is broke, while great leaders fix what isn't broke. How can you determine what isn't broke but needs fixing? One question I ask my clients during strategic planning sessions is: knowing what you know now about this line (product, service), if you were not in it today, would you go into it? Courageous leaders are those who sometimes fix what isn't broken before it becomes broken, outdated, or drains profits.

Now is the time for courage. I pray these insights help you deal with the decisions you face for the future of your LBM yard, your people, and your legacy.