Quintessential leaders have established, unchanging, unwavering – absolute – principles of integrity, honesty, fairness, accountability, and responsibility that they consistently adhere to and consistently expect the members of their teams to adhere to. This is the foundation of what builds trust in quintessential leaders and what makes them be trustworthy.

But there are many more attributes and characteristics – the “who you are” aspect of each of us – that distinguish quintessential leaders from everyone else. Today’s post will look at the attribute of courage.

What is courage? Merriam-Webster has an accurate and succinct definition: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

We live in a world where courage has pretty much gone off the radar, and instead a mindless following of whatever and whichever way the wind blows at any given time has ensued.

Courage is no longer considered a virtue because courage often makes you stand out and also can leave you standing alone much of the time. Courage requires investment, conviction, and endurance. It requires self-control and self-discipline. Courage requires a steadfast and unshakeable commitment to what is right, what is true, and what is moral, no matter what anyone else thinks, says, or does.

Most people in leadership positions today don’t have courage. Oh, they give lip service to it, but their actions – and actions always speak louder than words and reveal the inner person – reveal their lack of courage. What are some indicators of what this looks like?

  • Everything’s a moving target. No firm decisions are made, no paths are committed to, and no permanent directions are established. Everything depends on what somebody else thinks, says, or does. These people desire favor, friends, and fraternity more than anything else, and yet their lack of courage eventually destroys all that they desire.
  • Lack of courage unquintessential leadershipSituational ethics rule the day. What these people do or don’t do depends on the situation (and usually the people involved). If something wrong, dishonest or immoral will give them an advantage, then ethics, rules, the right thing go out the window, and they embrace the wrong, dishonest, or immoral wholeheartedly. Ironically, these are the very same people who are the first (and the loudest) to get very angry and very indignant about the situational ethics of other people, especially when they’re on the receiving end of it.
  • Favoritism abounds. These people treat some people really well and treat other people really badly. These people have different rules and different standards for different people. The lack of courage is evident because the favoritism exists because the “favored” either support the person in the leadership position, no matter what, or they know where all the skeletons are buried so favor is the reward for their silence.
  • Nothing changes. These people refuse to upset the status quo, cannot and will not think outside the box, and retaliate when confronted with truth and facts, in spite of all the evidence that what they are doing is not working. This is the coward’s path. It is a path laden with fear of what people will think, what people will say, what people will do and of failure.

On the other hand, courage is a key characteristic of quintessential leaders and quintessential leadership. Let’s look at few ways that quintessential leaders exhibit courage. This list is by no means exhaustive, so I invite you to add your contributions to this list.

  • Commitments are made and kept. Quintessential leaders know that well-designed and well-thought-out strategies and plans must precede commitment. But once those are in place, quintessential leaders commit to them and stay the course, no matter what obstacles, distractions, or setbacks come up. Quintessential leaders are focused on goals and realize that the journeys to those goals will never be, as long as humans – including us quintessential leaders – are involved, a smooth and straight road. However, quintessential leaders have the courage to tackle, overcome, and get beyond the rough and curvy parts along the way.
  • Ethical practices and ethical behavior can never be compromised with. Even if nobody sees or knows about an ethical lapse, quintessential leaders cannot live with their consciences when they occur. It’s like a heavy weight bearing down on them until it’s fixed, corrected, and eliminated. There is a high and absolute standard of right, of honesty, of integrity applied consistently and across the board. There is a zero-tolerance policy of not adhering to that standard. This is an act of courage because quintessential leaders always find themselves standing very alone in a world where situational ethics is expected and is the norm.
  • Fairness and impartiality abound. Quintessential leaders always treat everyone on their teams fairly and according to the same standard. It is no secret that, as human beings, we may like or get along with some people on our teams better than we like or get along with other people on our teams. However, our personal affections and affiliations do not cloud or skew our application of fairness and our standards for our teams. This takes courage, because people we like will get upset because they expect, many times, to be treated differently because we like them.
  • Things change when they need to. Quintessential leaders have the courage to listen, to admit when something’s not working, to challenge the status quo, and to shake things up when it’s necessary. Change is a necessary part of life. Ruts make us lazy, complacent, and static. Quintessential leaders can, will, and do think outside the box, recognizing the danger of ruts and the lack of changes to reflect the present, not the past. Most organizations operate in the past – with past models, past ideas, past structures, past ways of doing things. That is why they struggle as much as they do and why they are not as successful and productive as they could be. To operate in the present requires change – sometimes radical change – and it requires the courage to lead and be a part of that change,

courage maya angelouThink about change for a minute. In many ways change is the most courageous thing that quintessential leaders do. Now apply the concept of change personally to something we all had to be courageous enough to do at some point in our lives.

Do you, as an adult, crawl around on your hands and knees as your primary means of getting from one place to another? You are rolling your eyes and saying to yourself – and me – “Don’t be silly! Of course not!”

So, why not? Because you had to summon up the courage to walk, in spite of the fear of unsteadiness, falling down, and getting hurt. You realized that to move faster from one place to another, things and you needed to change. And you did it, in spite of all the odds against you and all the reasons why it would have been safer and easier for things to have just stayed the same. Your goal gave you the courage to change.

The rest of the changes we need to make in life are no different. They require our vision focused on our goals, the courage to commit to, endure through, persevere through whatever we encounter along the way to our goals, and sometimes standing alone and apart from the crowd as we move steadily and unwaveringly toward achieving our goals.

Do you have the courage?

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