Uncommon Courage for Leadership & Life
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Background: read our post entitled Leading with Wisdom through Courage

Like many people today, I was not born into a life of courage. I was always a smaller kid, enjoyed tucking in my shirts from the time I could walk, and dismissed many male antics as foolishness. Despite my physical presence and intellectual preferences, I was fortunate to have parents who placed me and my sister in situations that would develop this trait. Even with their best efforts, my initiation process, like many of you, was still incomplete and eventually required my direct attention. Regardless of family origin, courage is a trait that must be continually reaffirmed and exercised.

The Mental Preparation: 

For children, the invitation into courage is a physical experience, but as an adult, I have found that I must first rationalize the need for courage. 

When presented with a situation requiring courage, I often ask myself, “at the end of my life, which path will I regret not taking, even if that path results in a failure.” This question helps us see the lasting 2nd or 3rd order consequences clearly over the seductive 1st order consequences. Mentally picturing yourself at the end of life may seem morbid, but it is simply a reality that we all will face (see Five Regrets of the Dying). Those who confront their own mortality each day and live with an understanding of a “higher power” (see AA’s definition) are free to live a life of courage – not recklessness – because they can visualize the whole of their life choices connecting and recognize that “faith in a higher power will help [them] attain soundness of mind.”

Everything of lasting good in life requires courage.

A life lived without courage will ultimately result in a life lost through missed opportunities and, at the end, the inevitable physical passing. It bears repeating: everything of lasting good in life requires courage.

The Physical Preparation:

The purposeful physical exercise of courage is how we can strengthen our spine and begin to see the benefits and freedom that comes from stepping out of fear into adventure. For a child, this may mean engaging in a new sport or activity, having an outdoor adventure, or owning up to a mistake. It also requires the parent or guardian verbally affirm the brave and courageous nature of the child. In adults, the process is similar. We must verbally affirm our own courageous nature and press into things that are good but make us feel totally inadequate. For so many people (myself included), engaging in physical exercise is a perfect first step. The fear of people judging your current physique and fitness level, the fear of the discomfort exercise brings, the fear of failing or quitting your routine, the fear of being sore, and the fear of looking like a fool may all seem like good reasons to stay on the couch. This is why for adults, we must win the battle in our minds first and remind ourselves what is a 1st order consequence (embarrassment, discomfort, soreness, sweat, stink) and what are the higher-level consequences (better health, more energy for your kids, better mental performance, more courage). 

There are many physical activities that will require courage, and as you pass each test and reap the rewards of higher-level consequences, you will be more ready to step into situations that require social courage. 

Inviting Others into Courage:

The most difficult type of courage is social courage. Social courage requires us to lead others out of the comfort or paralysis of the status quo to engage in the creation of a better future through courage. Leaning into a tough conversation at the office, working through a point of contention with your spouse, re-establishing relationships with estranged family or friends – these are the actions that define a leader and ensure a life lived without regret. When people rise above their fears and exercise social courage, they invite others into living that life as well. This is the great power of leadership and why courage is an indispensable trait for any leader to possess. Without courage, a leader is someone with a title who floats in the current of mediocracy. They are, in fact, just another follower.

Remember: everything of lasting good in life requires courage. 

Let’s rise above and lead.

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