According to the Ideal Leadership Model©, there are six core competencies that predicate all true leadership initiative. These are the philosophical perspective of the leader determined by their VISION and VALUES, there personal attributes determined by their WISDOM and COURAGE, and the interpersonal attributes of TRUST and VOICE. Each of these six areas are essential, so much so that those who write about leadership have ‘championed’ each one as most essential.
In the case of the leadership competency of courage, no one less than Winston Churchill himself states, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” On another occasion he opined, “Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning.”
Winston Churchill is a model of leadership courage. His recognition of the dangers of Nazi Germany were not appreciated by a nation that was still licking its wounds from World War I. William Manchester’s classic series on Churchill’s life appropriately identifies these years with the title, Alone, 1932-1940.
Much can be learned from studying examples of leadership. The most classic work is, of course, John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. Michael Beschloss’s Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989, also gives excellent examples of this important virtue.
But as useful as reading examples of courage, it is just as much or even more important to develop this competency in ourselves. This involves understanding its relationship to our cognitive processes which produce wisdom. There are three critical areas which courage relates to wisdom; intuition, creativity, and resilience.
Men, in particular, have difficult trusting our ‘sixth sense’ which is intuition. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is an insightful and useful examination of this attribute. It takes courage to ‘trust your gut,’ yet it is essential to make the best decisions.
As mentioned in the last post, Robert Sternberg is one of the most outstanding researchers who discovered the relationship between wisdom and courage specifically through creativity. His Handbook of Creativity is a classic, but for those who need a more beginner’s primer would benefit from Mihaly Csikszentimihaly’s Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention.
Resilience is not studied but acquired through discipline. Thomas Edison’s first invention was a failure. Walt Disney went bankrupt in his his first business endeavor. Abraham Lincoln suffered numerous electoral failures before finally getting elected. And going back to Winston Churchill, no one exemplified perseverance better. Addressing a group of students in 1941, he advised them, “Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” No one ever said it better.