Courage and Vision in Leadership
October 8, 2009
School of Management
University of Texas at Dallas
Courage in Leadership
Courage has always been defined as one of the essential characteristics of a leader. Many great leaders like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela have exhibited un-paralleled courage in leading for their just cause. The 2008 US presidential candidate and Senator John McCain in his article “In Search of Courage” has brilliantly emphasized on the significance of courage in a leader (McCain). According to him, courage stands out among all the traits of a leader, and one who lacks courage is simply not a leader. The article has gracefully articulated the value of courage in leading organizations and nations. What is interesting about the article is that on one hand it emphasizes on the need of courage as the only way to succeed while on the second hand it notes that courage is no longer demanded by the individuals whom the leader serves. A consequence of the latter is that our leaders do not exhibit courage as we do not demand it from them. An inherent directive is thus to expect courage from our leaders and to realize them of this expectation. For a leader, courage is all about making a decision that is unusual and then motivating people to enroll and mobilize behind that decision. The main drivers behind courage are emotional commitment and vision. A courageous decision may not be an obvious choice, but it is the direct results of the leader’s confidence and optimism. An imminent example is that of Nelson Mandela who remained in prison for twenty-seven years but his confidence and commitment in making South Africa a multiracial country never wavered. Kathleen Reardon in her article has also asserted on the role of courage in leadership. She believes that good leaders have a greater than average willingness to make bold moves and they do so with careful consideration and analysis (Reardon 60). Senator McCain notes that the ability of a leader to make courageous decisions improves as he continues to do the tasks that he thought that he could not do. According to him the more resistance you feel the better equipped you will be in making tough choices boldly. One could not agree more than this statement from Senator McCain. Everyone has an ability to make a change. However, only courageous leaders have the strength, passion, and faith to bear unavoidable resistance along the way. Chuck Yeager was the first man to break the sound barrier. According to him it was the most turbulent ride of his life as he was approaching that barrier. However, it became calm as he went past that milestone (Freeman). Reardon echoes Senator McCain’s assertion related to the grooming of a courageous leader (Reardon 60). According to her, courage is not necessarily an inborn attribute of a leader; rather it is acquired and learned through years and decades of decision-making process. Often times, it is associated with high risk-taking, controversy, and blame from peers and sub-ordinates.
Making Courageous Decisions
Having said that courage is the key to success in leadership, it is interesting to understand how it is exercised. There are six discrete processes that help make courageous decisions (Reardon 60). They are listed below with a brief explanation for each: 1. Setting goals. Setting the goals and objectives is the first step towards making a bold decision. At this point, it is important to ensure that the goals are achievable and “pie-in-the-sky” ambitions should be avoided. 2. Importance of goals. It is also important to determine how significant the goals are to the organization and to its mission statement. Another concern is that if there is a risk involved in making a decision, is it worth pursuing it considering the importance of the goals? In other words, what is the trade-off...