“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Leadership is about creating an inspiring vision, mapping a direction and joining talents, skills and concepts to serve and make choices to improve life for others while generating value. However, whether innate or learnt, the powerful leadership traits must be honed with courage. The strength of character to persevere or to hold on to an aim, just the same acknowledging flawed course of action or building bridges demand the necessary moral courage.
Being fearful under pressure is natural. The notion of failing entirely or being criticised by making a wrong decision is a part of solving the Rubik’s cubes of leadership. Uncertainty and fear prevent people from taking actions, even though it will ultimately help them to achieve their goals. Courage is needed to exercise all the components of successful leadership. In the wake of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in February 2018, the CEO of Delta Airlines, Ed Bastian decision to rescind “any group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature”, which included National Rifle Association members, was an act of courage even though it resulted in putting an end to $40 million annual jet-fuel tax break.
In building a leadership brand, you need to master the fundamentals, to motivate, to engage, to have clear communication just the same as what differentiates you. Regardless of the possible attributes that you have naturally or they are critical to exhibit, the key question is whether you have the grit to manifest them in your daily behaviour. Translating those crucial qualities to lead is to have the courage to act consciously amid uncertainty. Chief Willoughby, a key character in the “Three Billboards, Outside Ebbing, Missouri, (played by Woody Harrelson) testifies to the strong power of leadership, emotional intelligence and the courage to make an impartial and favourable plea. In his letter to his colleague Jason Dixon, ( played by Sam Rockwell), he reminds Jason of his capabilities, aspirations and that he has a choice “…But as long as you hold onto so much hate, then I don’t think you’re ever going to become… What I know you wanna become…A Detective. Cos you know what you need to become a detective? And I know you’re gonna wince when I say this….But what you need to become a detective… is Love. Because thru Love comes Calm, and thru Calm comes Thought. And you need Thought to detect stuff sometimes, Jason. It’s kinda all you need. You don’t even need a gun. And you definitely don’t need Hate.’ Good words to remember: Through love comes calm and through calm, thought”.
Good leaders exercise good judgement, which deep down requires courage to discern between fair and rewarding propositions or inadequate and biased emotions. Being mindful and learning from past experiences help to place the problems into context and circumvent the instinctual reactions. Seasoned leaders don’t take things personally or don’t allow emotions to get in the way. They set a positive tone with a cool persona in times of adversity.
Good leaders avoid the blame game. They have the audacity to take a step back, dial down and get some perspective. They learn about whys and develop the understanding to find clarity. They make smart decisions and reinforce shared accountability. They have the ability to self-reflect and self-criticise.
We all face challenges; there is no one magic formula or course of action, yet regardless of which rule book we follow, “a lion does not trouble himself with the whispers of the sheep”. Facing opposition is not comfortable, the fear of public perception, or dealing with toxic people. Mastering our emotions and behaving positively is hard work but the good news is that it can be reinforced. You have the option to neutralise the negativity and tolerate the discomfort by strengthening your teamwork and productive mindset. Still, as Shakespeare eloquently wrote in Henry V speech: “All things are ready if our minds be so.” On that note, keep in mind that courage is the lynchpin of effective leadership.
“Now tell me, what does that mean – to be noble? Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow titles, they follow courage.”