When someone speaks of courage, what do you think about? Who do you think about? Courage is something that we all desire, but not all of us have acquired or put into practice on a regular basis. Why? Well, there are many reasons, but the primary reason is fear. Before we discuss courage in leadership, let’s briefly explore the meaning of courage and fear.
Courage is an internal virtue or power that causes one to confront, deal and physically act in spite of the odds, feelings or what is seen. One of the greatest examples of courage is in the story of David and Goliath. David, a mere shepherd boy, had the courage to stand against Goliath, a giant in size and strength. The story ends with David killing Goliath with a handmade sling and a few smooth stones. David had the courage to fight when everyone else around him was paralyzed with fear.
Fear is the second most powerful human emotion which causes one to aggressively react, become paralyzed or flee. Using the previous example, Goliath was an unusually large soldier who towered over all the men on the battle field. He had a reputation for being a killing machine and had never been beaten. For several days, Goliath begged for someone to challenge him in a fight. But, because he was feared by all the soldiers, no one had the courage to come forward.
Mark Twain stated, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is control of fear, mastery of fear”. Fear is a natural emotion. It alerts us of danger, helps us to aggressively react or run when necessary. However, fear as a predominate emotion, paralyzes and prevents one from moving forward or taking action in their lives. It is renders one powerless with the inability to overcome challenges in general. So, how do you control fear and increase courage? How does one respond like David to a giant like Goliath in our lives?
First, we must remember that fear is a learned emotion. No one was born with it. Think about a small child with no fear of walking in the street or putting their hand in the pretty fire. We are taught to fear those things because we may get hit by a vehicle or badly burned. If fear is learned, it can be unlearned with self-discipline. Secondly, courage is developed over time. Coming up against Goliath wasn’t the first time David’s courage was put to the test. Because he had successfully defeated a lion and a bear prior to that encounter, he had no problem believing he could kill Goliath. I’m sure David was fearful, but his previous track record gave him the faith and courage to rise above his fear and “just do it”.
The two most common qualities in leadership are Vision and Courage. Leaders must have a clear and concise vision for where they want to take their organization. They must also have the courage to take the first step in accomplishing the vision. If they don’t, no one will move and the vision, no matter how great, will die. Courage is the ability to confront, deal and act in spite of your fears. It is the key to success and happiness in every area in life.
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