I have a theory: courage is the sinew that connects behavior to results. And, fear is a sinkhole that sabotages the best of intentions.
It’s not good ideas that get things done. It’s not well-meaning intentions that create results. It’s not strategic plans that drive progress. It is courage!
Take my post from earlier this week, “Walking the Tightrope of Hard Conversations.” Without the courage to act, ideas for how to navigate tough conversations don’t mean squat. Just knowing a better way forward is not enough. We still have to take that walk across the tightrope of relational risk.
Courage separates those who walk from those who merely talk. When fear rises up, the question is not how we will quell your fears, but how we will act in spite of our fears.
Leadership is about action and action requires courage.
Let me brag on my wife, Margaret. A number of years ago, we were doing a “century ride” on California’s central coast. (A Century ride is 100 mile ride on a bicycle in one day.) Unfortunately, her batteries were a little low. She’d been sick a week earlier and after a couple scary encounters with traffic her enthusiasm was shaky. At the half-way point, she considered pulling the plug. However, in that moment, she made a conscious choice to override her emotions and continue the ride. In the face of her fears she acted from raw courage. There is no other word for it. It moved me and it reminded me how much courage it takes to go on when the early thrills of adventure wear thin.
Every time a leader or an organization attempts change, they face those moments when it would be easier to turn back than to go forward. Every time you or I try to accomplish something worthwhile we hit the point where our own fatigue or the resistance of others makes going forward feel daunting.
When we need to have a difficult conversation with someone, it is courage not duty that will get us in the room for that conversation. When we face a moment of great uncertainty or high risk or potential conflict, it is courage that will keep us from turning back to the devil we know.
More than any other factor, I believe courage is what separates true leaders from the rest.
That day on our bikes, I watched Margaret make a courageous choice and sail across the 100 mile finish line because of it.
I hope I can live as courageously this week.
What are you facing this week?
A good friend of mine just published a powerful book. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Leadership Courage: Leadership in a culture of cowardice, by Kirk Kirlin.