Arousing Courage Leadership

It is not only the most difficult thing to know oneself, but the most inconvenient one, too.

— H. W. Shaw

MOST PEOPLE HAVE differing opinions about who has courage and how they acquire it. Is it learned or innate? Do you maneuver in and out depending on the circumstance at stake, or can you keep advancing your level of courage consciousness? The viewpoint for all employees matters.

“Much of my life I thought you were either courageous or you weren’t. But, courage is being displayed everywhere, and one size courage does not fit all,” states John Jackson, former associate professor of marketing and strategic management at Central Queensland University in Australia.* He highlights several other courage distinctions displayed by famous and everyday people.

“Mother Theresa had the courage to work for many years with the poor of India in what most people would regard as a hopeless, no-win situation, Jackson explained. “Nelson Mandela had the courage to take on the apartheid system, but not to renounce armed resistance. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King had the courage to champion and live non-violent resistance. Winston Churchill had the courage to do whatever it took to rid the world of Hitler and Nazism (or, as a historian friend of mine put it, ‘Only a bastard as big as Churchill could have defeated a bastard as bad as Hitler’). My good friend David had the courage to retire at thirty-five years of age to devote himself ‘to the Divine.’ My dad’s nickname at school was ‘Chokey Jackson’ because he had the courage to put so much into the 400 meter run that he would choke from exhaustion. Later on in life he took on the role of running an orphanage in Africa.

Courage is generally associated with being a hero. This naturally negates the deeds of most people in the workforce. “I am no hero,” Jackson said. “Most of the time, my most courageous act at work is to champion peace and harmony. But as Aristotle would remind us, virtue—in this instance—is finding the balance between being a strong peacemaker and being a strong pushover.” If you have inklings about how to dial into your courage, great! That’s the first step. The learning curve escalates when you become adept at extracting the courage varieties permeating your environment and then honoring them.

Teaching the Attributes of Courage

Ask your employees a few important questions:

• How do you bring your courage to work and demonstrate it for others to validate?

• How is the larger organization designed to support your courage beliefs?

• Where are the breakdowns within the organization that reveal lost courage (dispirited)?

• What internal scripts play when you are challenged at work, and what is the difference when you are deeply engaged in your passion (spirited)?

• Do you believe your learning leaders attempt to understand how your courage is uniquely wired and what you may need to boost its size?

* Double blind paper reviewed by experts for ANZAM Conference, Australia by Walston, S. and Jackson, J.

Sandra Ford Walston is known as The Courage Expert and innovator of StuckThinking™. She is an organizational effectiveness consultant, speaker, internationally published author of bestseller COURAGE, trainer and courage coach. She is certified in the Enneagram and MBTI®. 

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