Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one
can go. — T.S. Eliot
Author Leo Buscaglia tells this story of his mother and their ‘misery
dinner.” It was the night after his father came home and said it
looked as if he would have to go into bankruptcy because his partner
had absconded with the firm’s funds. His mother went out and sold some
jewelry to buy food for a sumptuous feast. Other members of the family
scolded her for it. But she told them that “the time for joy is now,
when we need it most, not next week.” Her courageous act rallied the
Courage is an essential leadership skill. It inspires confidence and
promotes a healthy work environment. The lack of courage in a leader
can have devastating consequences. Forbes contributor Glen Llopes
wrote a column entitled 7 Reasons Why Employees Don’t Trust Their
Leaders. He cites the lack of courage as the number one reason. Llopes
adds, “Leaders who don’t stand up for what they believe in are
difficult to respect and trust.”
If you were to assess your courage quotient as leader how would you
measure up? Are you instilling courage in your organization or by
default are you promoting a culture of weakness? Here are four
questions to reflect on as you consider how well you promote a culture
Do your words project courage?
How you speak to your organization is just as important as what you
speak. If your words don’t inspire confidence then it will be hard for
your team to believe your words. If you want to instill confidence
then you must speak with confidence. To do anything less is sending
the wrong signal. But make no mistake; what you believe and what you
communicate to your team forms the basis of belief from which they
will work, produce, and deliver. Courageous words will inspire
Do your actions reflect courage?
Your words and your actions are key indicators as to your own courage
quotient and will be reflected throughout your organization. If you
have low expectations in your team’s ability to reach their goals then
it will be hard for them to overcome that negative perception. If on
the other hand you speak courage and act with courage it will be the
signal your team needs to go above and beyond and deliver. If you want
your team to be courageous then you need to model courageous
Do your policies and procedures promote courageous behavior?
There can be times when your words and actions may bend toward
courageous behavior but it’s being held up by obstructing policies. As
a leader it’s your responsibility to make sure that your team’s
courageous culture is not being choked out by restrictive procedures
that kill creativity and their ability to get the job done. Review it.
Change it. Streamline it. Do whatever is necessary to make sure that a
courageous culture thrives.
Do you have courageous
goals and dreams?
The question here is important because we tend to think we are
courageous when we are pushing for goals and dreams from the confines
of our comfort zones. Anyone can be courageous while promoting a small
dreams or idea. But how courageous are you when it comes to goals and
dreams that scare you to death because they seem too big, too costly,
or beyond your ability to achieve?
I’d like to encourage you to speak new life into old dreams and dare
to speak with the same authority and passion to those larger-than-life
sized dreams as you do to the ones you know you can easily achieve.
Don’t allow what scares you to keep you from what inspires you. Be
courageous and inspire courage!
What do you say?
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Doug Dickerson is a syndicated columnist. He writes a weekly column
for this newspaper. To contact Doug Dickerson, email him at