Leading is About Courage

I have become very mindful of my growth as a leader. I run an academic library. I have been given additional, interesting administrative experiences at my college. Incredibly, there are people who trust me and seek my opinion. It is all very humbling and makes me grateful for the generosity of the excellent people who have mentored me over the past 20 years.

I am thinking of the high school teacher who encouraged me to pursue my weird passion for learning new things and to share that weird passion with others.

I am thinking of the boss at my first job who didn’t berate me when I made a huge mistake and, instead, helped me work out my own plan for correcting and preventing such mistakes in the future.

I am thinking of the college administrator who let me dream big and fail big, testing and discovering the limits of personal ambition.

I am thinking of the colleague who constantly encourages me to look forward, move forward and engage with change in a positive, proactive way. That is the only way we can shape the future.

All of these people have, in their own unique way, taught me one valuable lesson: leadership is about courage — having courage and lending courage.

Every team has a leader. Sometimes that person is officially paid to be the boss. Sometimes that person is the leader by default. I have worked both ways. In either case, there is always a leader and the members of the team look to that leader for confidence. A leader demonstrates confidence by clarity of vision, simplifying complexity and acting with consistency in changing circumstances. A leader acts with confidence and models courage. This is essential but also pretty basic.

As a leader grows, he or she is able to not only have courage but lend courage to others. Courage to try something new. Courage to sit with a problem and figure things out. Courage to voice unpopular opinions. Courage to accept responsibility. Courage to fail.

Nothing useful happens on a team that has no courage. No matter how much intelligence, experience, and vision is tied up in a team, nothing worthwhile happens without courage.

This is the lesson I work with everyday. I work to keep myself mindful and worthy of the example of those who have invested their trust and confidence in me. I struggle. I fail. I disappoint. I hope I also give courage where courage is needed.

The world is a difficult place. Everything is in flux. Nothing stays still. A leader’s job is to keep everyone moving bravely forward. We can accomplish nothing when locked up in fear. There is an openness and a lightness that comes when working with courage. When that courage is shared, there are no limits on what can be accomplished.

4 thoughts on “Leading is About Courage

  1. Leadership is not always an easy mantle to wear. Many think it stops and starts in the office, but I’ve found that to be patently untrue. Those kinds of leaders aren’t leaders at their core, but sheep who happen to be good actors. The true leaders are leaders wherever they are because they simply can’t help it. They’re not afraid to step out on their own regardless of what others may think. They understand that a mistake is not the end of the world, but a minor setback…and often brings them just a bit closer to their ultimate goal. They’re not afraid to admit when they’re wrong or to learn from someone else, regardless of who that person may be or what title they carry. A leader is a person who constantly strives to make themselves and those around them better because they know that in the end…that makes for a better world.

    Well, that’s my two cents. 😉


    • Well said, Kitt. I particularly like your observation that leaders constantly strive to improve the situation for those people around them. We can work with people, through people or around people. It is exhausting to work “around” people. Much easier in the end to work with people. The impulse to constantly add value can become a bit like a reflex. It can also be exhausting, but the rewards are huge. I find that adding value to others almost always results in those same people adding value to me. Helping others lead is the only way to create real, permanent, positive change.

      Thanks so much for the comment and for reading the blog.


  2. As I was reading you article, somehow it had put courage on me, It’s like, while reading the words “All of these people have, in their own unique way, taught me one valuable lesson: leadership is about courage — having courage and lending courage.” Right now, I have this good feeling that failing is a challenged. It would help me grow and would help me take big foot steps and able to survive with that.
    You article have post a place in my heart. I really liked your article. It has touch me! Thank you very much for your post!


    • Thanks so much. You are very kind. I am still learning to embrace the power of failure. I think it is the only way to learn and grow. I am a recovering perfectionist. Much better for a team to see a leader work through failure rather than project a false air of infallibility. Perfection stifles opportunity.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.


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