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The Courage of Leadership

February 17, 2014

Authentic leaders are very unique people. Perhaps that’s why we see so few of them in everyday life. They set themselves apart not only by what they say but by what they do. They simply do things differently than people who merely hold a leadership position or have an impressive sounding title. 

There are a few minimum requirements or qualities that a person must possess to qualify as an authentic leader. The actual qualities of authentic leaders can be debated forever but there are some that are absolute. Integrity and caring are two of the big ones. Judgment, or as I prefer to call it, Judgcernment, is another. Judgcernment is the ability to make a correct decision using both good judgment and discernment. 

That ability is key to effective authentic leadership. Yet many leaders have that ability and still fail in their leadership responsibilities. I believe that’s because they lack one other essential quality of leadership: Courage.

They just don’t have the nerve to pull the trigger on big decisions. They have all the facts, they know what’s right, they have correctly judged and weighed all the possibilities and still they can’t bring themselves to say yes or no.

Courage in a leader inspires their followers to commit rather than merely comply. Followers see the inner battle their leader fights to do what’s right and they commit to do what’s right as well, growing themselves, their leader and their organization.

Leaders with courage don’t just work to smooth things over, they commit to making them right. This is perhaps the hardest part of big decision making; if the decision causes change for anyone it will make someone unhappy. It might even be unfair, but courageous leaders know that the right thing to do isn’t always the fair thing to do and they do it anyway. If you believe that everyone must love you in order for them to respect you then you may be a wonderful friend but you’re likely not an authentic leader.

Courageous leaders are willing to risk being wrong sometimes in order to be right most of the time. They know that decisions move the organization forward. They know that a lack of a decision is in fact a decision; it’s a decision to do nothing and that’s a decision that is almost always wrong and at times catastrophic. 

Courageous leaders make a positive difference in whatever organization they serve. They can come from any level of an organization and they need no tittle or position to effectively influence those around them. They inspire people and organizations to greatness and their leadership far outlasts them.

If you’re wondering if you have the courage to be an authentic leader then remember this: courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is facing your fear and moving forward anyway. Dale Carnegie always said that the only place fear really existed was in our mind. Remove fear from your thoughts today and you’ll find the courage you already possess tomorrow.  

From → Leadership

16 Comments
  1. Servant Leadership is powerful. Leaders need to lift up those they serve, especially if the leader wishes to push towards excellence. Hard to push without the lifting.

    • Great comment Dereck, no lifting makes the push seem pushy. Those we build are even willing to push themselves!

  2. Reblogged this on Wes Tolbert and commented:
    The courage to lead comes from faith in ones own abilities. Only after a person has to corm to understand this about themself, can they begin to lead others.

    • I think you’re absolutely correct. Until we believe in ourselves it’s tough to believe in anything.

  3. Another thought-provoking post Steve. I saw your post on my phone last night so didn’t comment when I first read it. I wanted to take a moment to do so when I saw the link to your post pop up into my feed again today.

    No matter where we are; whether we are running a business, working in a business, running our own homes, volunteering for an organization…whatever capacity we occupy in our day to day lives…we have the opportunity to lead. To be an example. To someone. Even if it’s to stand up on our own behalf by taking a stand for what we believe in. For speaking the truth even when no one is willing to hear it.

    So this has really been heavy on my heart lately.

    Courage has everything to do with having heart and it has nothing to do with being dishonest.

    It doesn’t take a courageous person to lie. It doesn’t take courage to plagiarize without attribution to original authors and call it success. It doesn’t take courage to build yourself up at the very often COSTLY expense of others in the way of time, money, or even reputation if you get in the way of a greedy enough person.

    Courageous leadership means being willing to live with some integrity even if it costs you. It’s being willing to serve other people instead of just yourself all of the time.

    It also means building relationship with people instead of creating hostages.

    Courage isn’t exactly what comes to mind for many leaders today. In real life AND on the internet.

    Another C word would be more appropriate.

    When people find enough courage (heart) to be willing to be honest, beginning with themselves, then maybe…just MAYBE….people will have enough courage and heart to be ABLE to lead others.

    Otherwise, whoever you try to lead will wind up being your casualty of war rather then someone served by so called..’leadership’.

    For those with ears to hear…please let them hear….

    Thanks again Steve.

    • Thanks my friend! You’re absolutely right of course, cheating, stealing, lying, they are all easy ways out. The way of those who have no courage. Doing the right thing right, simply because it’s right…. Now that’s real courage!

  4. trisha permalink

    Just a quick one….what happens when the leader gets victimised by upper management for displaying all those qualities that you have written about?

    • That sadly happens too often. This is where perseverance comes in. The leader must continue to build trust with upper management remove what upper management sees as a threat.

      • trisha permalink

        Unfortunately from personal experience there is only so much perseverance that one can handle…and sometimes walking away with one’s integrity intact outweighs even the security of having a job offers.

      • Sometimes walking away requires the greatest courage of all.

  5. Reblogged this on MOBBIBLE | Genesis and commented:
    Courageous leaders know when it’s time to turn the page.

  6. Reblogged this on Dave Klatch – Seasoned Sales Executive and commented:
    This is some great information and sooo true. Real Leaders have COURAGE and aren’t afraid to display it!

    • Thanks Dave, I’ve never met an authentic leader without the courage to do the right thing, popular or not.

  7. This is the best all-around description of leadership I have read. I think that, sadly, integrity and caring are lacking among many people that others consider to be true leaders, particularly when it comes to political leaders. Don’t intend to create a political firestorm, just one person’s opinion.

    • Thanks Laura for your thoughtful comment. I agree with you that true leadership get harder to find every year. There is just way to much “it’s all about me” when it comes to today’s leadership.

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