John Wayne was an actor and an American icon. Many will agree that he was a man’s man and symbolized the courage, integrity and charisma that are hallmarks of what we want to see in our leaders…and in ourselves. When we think of today’s leaders, however, courage isn’t often the term that is top of mind.
We accept that persons of leadership have power and authority, but often, unfortunately, these attributes are used for harm more than good.
As honor is a part of integrity, so then is courage a part of character. A person with great character, who performs an act of courage, doesn’t take that action with a conscious thought that his or her deeds will be perceived as courageous. Successful leaders do the right thing for the right reason at the right time because that is their character.
Courage enables you to speak up when it’s much easier to remain silent. Courage propels you to attempt new ideas, even at the risk of failure. Courage provides the inspiration you need to pursue your dreams, even at the risk of great disappointment. Winston Churchill said:
“Courage is the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
Courage. Purpose. Determination. Necessity. Power of Conviction. All are an integral part of your character and factor into your success as a person and as a leader. Courage is not something that lives in a void. And people are not courageous for the sake of courage. People are courageous when they are committed to a cause. Men and women are even willing to die when they believe they are part of a just cause such as freedom, family and country.
You do not inherit courage; rather, you develop it, by living a focused life committed to your values and goals. You strengthen courage by confronting your fears with purpose. When you believe in yourself, and have the courage to act on your belief, others will follow and support you and your cause. Courage fills you with traits that others admire and respect.
To grow your power and influence and turn your dreams into reality, work on your courage.
The dysfunction we observe today in our leaders, both elected and appointed, stems from a lack of courage. We cannot follow them if we don’t respect them or their cause. We are simply not getting great leaders who exhibit courage.
Our choices are to: (1) quit and go somewhere else to work, or (2) stay but quit supporting a leader we do not respect. In either case, you and our employer lose. John Wayne, we need you and miss you.
Jeff Haden, Contributing editor, Inc., wrote, “Think of courage and you may first picture physical bravery, but there are many other forms of courage. After all, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it." (Who should know better than Nelson Mandela?)
That means bravery--sometimes an extraordinary level of bravery--is required in business and entrepreneurship. Like taking a chance when others will not. On the other hand, following your vision no matter where it leads. On the other hand, standing up for what you believe in even though those beliefs are extremely unpopular.
Or simply doing the right thing, even though the right thing is definitely the hardest thing.”
Probes: These may be used by the reader to start a dialogue in your organization.
- How do your fears limit your personal growth?
- When will you accept that the fear of success, as well as the fear of failure, was rooted in you by others?
- What are the rewards of overcoming your fears?