The Courage to Lead…

What does it mean to be courageous?  When I hear the term, I immediately think of the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz (  He, according to society, had all the physical attributes of someone who should not be afraid and exude confidence. He had a commanding statue, “authoritative” voice, and was born to be king of the jungle (natural born leader). However, he did not have any courage.  Just as with anything, looks can be deceiving and things that seem natural and easy isn’t always.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a young lady I mentor in South Carolina.  She, a freshman in college, was explaining difficulties she’s experiencing and how these issues affect her performance in school.  After listening carefully, not judging, or telling her what to do – she asks of me, “how do you find the strength and courage to keep going when you’re unsure of the outcome?”  I merely responded, that I fear the thought of not trying more than trying and failing.  This conversation made me reflect on the many aspects of courage a leader must possess and how it’s simple but complicated as illustrated by the Cowardly Lion.  I conclude that courage comes about from many sources within:  1) Conquering what you fear; 2) Life experiences – succeeding and failing; 3) Leading with purpose

Some quotes to consider for each from great leaders:

1)    Conquering what you fear

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

~ Nelson Mandela

2)    Life experiences – succeeding and failing

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

3)    Leading with purpose

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

~ John F. Kennedy

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