December 5, 2013
Courage to Lead by Craig Schloneger
In November we commemorated two events that were pivotal in shaping our nation’s identity. On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln was in Gettysburg, PA where he delivered a very short but powerful speech marking the end of the Civil War and the beginning of reconciliation for our country. One hundred years later on November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was in Dallas, TX where he was tragically assassinated, bringing much shock and fear to our country as we tried to understand who would do such a thing and why.
Lincoln and Kennedy, forever linked in memory for reasons inspiring as well as eerie, are considered two of our most revered Presidents. They led at critical times in our nation’s history, speaking just the right words to inspire the people. We admire them not only for their famous speeches but for the courage they displayed in leading our country during uncertain times.
At my first job after college I went through an extensive two week orientation program that covered many topics – how to dress, act in social settings, relate to clients and lead in the workplace. Our instructor emphatically stated that leaders come in many shapes and sizes, have many different leadership styles and communicate in a variety of ways. But most importantly, he said, all good leaders share one thing in common – courage. He summed up his session by saying: The only prerequisite for leadership is courage.
As I think back on this, I am convinced that the instructor was correct in that so much of providing good leadership is having courage: courage to make a difficult decision, courage to take action, courage to stand up for what is ethical and right, courage to go against popular opinion, courage to admit our failures, and the list goes on. When we identify a failure of leadership, we are often referring to a lack of courage in making a timely decision, admitting wrongdoing, staying quiet when something is not right or just disappearing when times are tough.
Lincoln and Kennedy had the opportunity to lead on the national stage and they grabbed their moment with courage. We may not lead on such a grand scale, but we do have opportunities to demonstrate courage with our co-workers, children and friends. I encourage you to confidently and courageously embrace the leadership opportunities in front of you.