Cowards Can’t Lead: Secrets to Fueling Courage
Cowards can’t lead. Inaction, pain, and failure follow cowardly leaders. Cowardly leaders:
- Won’t decide.
- Delay, posture, and blame.
- Reject responsibility.
The most surprising aspect of leadership is the courage it takes. When I began, I thought leading was about excitement. Today, years later, it’s about courage.
Input from Facebook, “Leaders need courage when …”
- They wake up every morning.
- Faced with lack of direction.
- Adding a team member.
- Endings are necessary.
- Giving bad news.
- They’re leading and when they’re following.
See more on Facebook.
Responding with courage:
Mark Miller, in, The Heart of Leadership, writes, “Leaders respond with courage when they:
- Articulate the vision for the future.
- Build relationships with challenging people.
- Challenge people to grow and change.
- Mend broken relationships.
- Confront difficult problems.
- Make hard or unpopular decisions.
You aren’t leading if you don’t feel the need to act courageously. Every meaningful act of leadership requires courage.
Mark says a person develops courage when they, “Practice taking action.” Courage takes initiative. In a word courage acts.
Talk yourself into rather than out of.
Delay drains courage.
Fear fuels courage. Think about what you and others will miss if you don’t respond with courage. Fear what won’t happen. Ask,
How am I falling short or missing out
because I refuse to take action?
Mark instills fear when he writes:
“Your missed opportunities are often no big deal in isolation. They are, however, cumulative.”
Fear is useful, but cowardice – unwillingness to act – has no place in leadership.
- Every meaningful act of leadership requires courage.
- The first way to develop courage is to habitually take action. Avoid delay.
- The second way to develop courage is to fear what won’t happen if you refuse or delay action.
Connect with Mark:
- Twitter: @leadersserve
- Great Leaders Serve on Facebook.
- Free chapter of, The Heart of Leadership. (No strings)
How have you learned to respond with courage?
Well, not really feeling it.
Who among us is not afraid? Aren’t we all a kaleidoscope of love and fear and everything in between. Only the astutely ignorant state they are anything else and above the fray of the spiritual being having a human experience back and forth.
The delusional. Psychotics and liars?
The AA Big Book, the manual for sharing the design for living that works for everyone, why you might ponder…..cause it is generic for everyone and teaches how to think not what to think. Cool stuff!
It says we have some of the worst in us and some of the best. For me before I go placing coward placards on everyone I see dealing with their stuff and feeling afraid, might want to look in the mirror long enough to know that fear thingy happens to me too.
We are all just doing the best we can with what we got to work with. God loves all his kids unconditionally. It is how we see ourselves and each other that is the problem. Just my opinion based on my experience.
Have a god one Dan.
Shifterp back to gently loving now!
Thanks Scott. Yup, we all have fear.
Scott to me the point of the article is to push past the fear into action. I actually pull Frank Hebert’s Litany Against Fear from _Dune_ in these situations.
Fear is a mind killer
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration
I will face my fear
I will permit it to pass over me and through me
And when it has gone past me,
I will turn to see fear’s path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing
Only I will remain.
Courage will transform fear into success, sometimes you have to fall down make a mistake, learn from it, move on and lead with responsibility, soon your actions coupled with Courage will get the job done and your realize the task was not as bad as we make it to be.
LOve the expression “courage transforms fear into success…” Its great because it doesn’t exclude feeling fear… bottom line is, no fear = no courage.
I have learned that hiding or not facing the truth of situations never helps to fix them or change them.; and it is exhausting. That soon or late we must face the fear, walk through it and deal with it on the clear light of day and truth.
I’m with you…the dread of doing something is worse than actually doing it. 🙂
Two confidences go hand in hand with this.. Confidence I’m on the right path.. Confidence I can recover from unseen obstacles..
FAcing the future with the confidence we can recover is the difference between optimism and pessimism…
Leaders are constantly out on the edge in everything they do and must have courage to stay out there and do the job that is required of them which is to LEAD.
Really like the “edge” idea…. if you aren’t on the edge you’re following.
Fear often arises because of the unknown. When you do “X”, you might not know what the consequences are, but that really isn’t a logical way of thinking when you take a step back from the situation. The unknown is unknown, it is neither good nor bad, so in a sense having any sort of emotional tie to the unknown is a waste of time, so just get on with the task at hand 😉
I find you clarity about unknown consequences helpful…thanks. Just move forward and deal with it…
Lack of courage is definitely why I procrastinate many hard or intimidating things. Dan, are there pivotal moments where you found courage in some specific thought, emotion or practice?
I find courage emerges when I get scared enough. But if fear is manageable..then courage lays dormant.
The decision I made a few years ago to not define myself by my role, organization or title took the most courage.
I also think that talking about fear and courage is often enough to get us going. Talking about courage seems to give courage. I noticed that Kouzes and Posener mention this in their e-book: Finding Courage to Lead.
Thanks Dan. I just shared your words on our internal Salesforce Chatter feed. Great stuff.
Dan, I have to admit to a rather snide reaction to your blog title and wanted to change it to: “What’s Wrong with Congress…Cowards Can’t Lead.” Yes, it is an over generalization, but I have also seen first hand from the majority and minority leaders in both houses a decided lack of courage when it comes to moving the decisions of government forward. For me, it is a great illustration of your very point about courage being at the core of the actions of leadership. It has also been my experience that one of the reasons that leadership can be very lonely is that it requires so much courage to do well.
Thanks for your thoughts.
I don’t talk politics here, but, what’s happening in our country is absolutely disgusting. It’s so sad.
As Dan points out, it’s not about shedding fear, or even worse, not having fear, it’s about facing fear. It’s about conviction. Somewhere down there it’s also about being confident that doing what’s right and maybe disappointing some people will come all right in the end with the help of tact (and that best thing ever: a great team). I thought this was a great post. If you’re paralyzed to make a big decision, imagine how you’ll feel when you get the news that your competitor took the business. If your imaginary future self is sad and disappointed, then better put together a plan!
Wow, that first sentence really nails it. It’s all about facing it…not ignoring or pretending or suppressing.
Sometimes you’ve got to respond with courage when receiving frustrating news. Recently I had to question another leader in our organization. This took courage beyond what I thought I had. In the end, it turned out for the best.
It can’t literally be done 100% of the time; but I think one of the best ways to work through fear is to ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
And the worst never seems that bad when the alternative is to constantly be fearful of work situations — and not to be able to move forward.
Soldiers, police officers, fire fighters –THEY have reason to be fearful. Our fears in the corporate workday world are mostly fiction.
The overriding problem with this overly simplistic outlook is that psychopaths (people with 0 conscience) have 100% confidence and are completely fearless. They however, make terrible leaders because they only do what benefits them not the organization that they lead. A good leader does need confidence and courage but also must have a connection with others.
The problem is that psychopaths have an insatiable lust for power and control with the unique qualities that allow them to get these positions. Because of articles like this, people adopt the delusional view that many psychopathic characteristics make for the best leaders. A purely egocentric leader that ends up destroying the organization he’s leading because he’s only pursuing his own needs, is the worst leader of all.
Great article! Courage is about getting real and wanting to make a change. In my years of experience as an HR professional, I see time and again that the best leaders have the courage to challenge the heart of an issue, regardless of company politics. This means that they can stand behind decisions and are respected by their teams. Courage is one of the core leadership competencies. align4profit.com
It feels like this article was written for me. I woke up with a goal to read on leadership because of a new responsibility I’m assuming at my place of work, then I landed on this one-cowards can’t lead…
It has given me clear growth areas.
It’s so practical. Easy to read. It’s message is clear and inspiring