Brave men and women are not frightened by an obstacle, they are challenged by it. Leadership requires bravery. Not a blind and reckless nature, but the genuine courage needed for true, effective leadership.
The songs of Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark resonate with me. One of my favorites is “The Cape” – the tale of a boy with a flour-sack cape tied around his neck who jumps off the garage in an attempt to fly. The song follows him through life as he continues to bravely face life’s challenges with that same spirit. It closes with the line, “He did not know that he could not fly and so he did.”
Here are three ways to determine if you are brave enough to lead.
Be brave enough to see the unseen.
William Faulkner said, “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Why is it so hard for us to lose sight of the shore? Because the shore represents “the known.” It represents safety and minimizes risk. Leadership without risk is not leadership at all. History’s most courageous leaders have envisioned a better world that is not yet present. Lincoln saw an America without slavery. The Wrights saw man taking flight. Kennedy envisioned footprints on the moon. Reagan saw a world without the walls that limited freedom. Are you brave enough to see the unseen?
Be brave enough to see past the second-guessers.
We all have them. They surround us. I’m not talking about the people who provide sound advice and counsel; leaders actively seek those individuals. A true leader will identify and limit the naysayer, even when it puts a relationship at risk. Leadership is difficult enough without letting negative influences rob you of your emotional reserve. Alter your reading habits and read positive text. Change the subject when the conversation goes negative. Block topics or people from your social media feed. Most of all: don’t forget that second-guessing can often be self-inflicted. Are you brave enough to see past the second-guessers?
Be brave enough to remain true to your principles.
Mark Twain said, “It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.” That is certainly true today! Today, principles are fluid and seem to be determined by the latest 140-character comment. Do you possess a set of foundation principles on which your decision-making process rests? We are often kind to political leaders because their adherence to principle, which was doubted in real-time, is understood to be right through the lens of history. Leadership requires the development of foundation principles and the perseverance to stay true them in the face of adversity.
Are you brave enough to be like the boy in Clark’s song? If so, tie on your cape, get a running start and fly toward greatness! Remember, folks, just good days!