Category Archives: Leadership

Three Ways To Determine If You Are Brave Enough To Be a Leader

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.”

dreamstime_boy_in_cape

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!

Leadership Through Opportunity

“What makes a great leader?”  A frequently-asked question, indeed.  Experts have long considered the characteristics of great leaders, in order to understand how they are developed.  Are individuals born with certain attributes that make them great leaders?  Is there a genetic predisposition to leadership?  What role do education and social environment play in the development of leaders?  All valid questions.

One thing that most leaders have in common is opportunity.  A void to be filled.  A cause to be won.  A wrong that must be made right.  An innovation to be introduced.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in American history.

Consider the military.  Washington.  Grant.  Eisenhower.  Each of them rose to greatness, in part, due to their opportunity to lead American forces in the Revolutionary, Civil and Second World Wars, respectively.  Had they already achieved prior to those opportunities?  Significantly so.  But, they excelled as they led America through dark days of war.

Consider politics.  Lincoln, the perpetual loser of elections, finally won one only to be faced with the hardest decisions ever made by an American President.  Roosevelt, overcoming immense physical challenges, brought America out of the Great Depression and displayed unbelievable will as we entered World War II.  Reagan inherited a nation with a real inferiority complex that many thought was dying and brought “morning to America again.”

Consider social justice.  Our nation’s history is filled with stories of those who inspired a nation to overcome injustice.  Dr. King and the peaceful way that he protested racial inequity.  Susan B. Anthony and her passion to see that women had the right to vote.  In Arkansas, we understand deeply the courage of Daisy Bates as she led nine teenagers to make an earth-shattering stand in Little Rock in 1957.

Consider business.  John D. Rockefeller began amassing the greatest personal fortune the world has ever known by standardizing the way kerosene was produced, packaged and delivered to homes in the late 19th century.  The “standard” in Standard Oil was born of that opportunity.  Henry Ford put America “on the road” by revolutionizing the way automobiles were made with his assembly line.  Gates and Jobs led us into the most fascinating of American times by creating personal computing and along the way showed us a thing or two about competition in corporate America.

The list goes on.  Educational leaders.  Religious leaders.  Leaders in arts and invention.

It’s interesting to consider if Bill Gates would have been as great a leader as John Rockefeller, had he been born in 1839.  Would Lincoln be the leader that America, indeed the world, needs today?  Would Susan B. Anthony have been a great President had she lived today, instead of having to fight slavery and suffrage?  Would Eisenhower have accomplished the same level of success had he been a contemporary of Washington?

We will never know the answers to those questions.  It may not even be worth our time to consider them.  However, we can KNOW that they were leaders in their day, at their time, facing the challenges of the world as they knew it.  They each made the most of THEIR opportunity!

Are you looking to create leaders today?  As a parent?  As an educator?  As a manager?  If so, there are many factors to consider.  But, one thing is sure: you must help them understand how to recognize opportunity.  Opportunity comes in many forms.  It is my belief that every challenge – no matter how large or small – creates an opportunity for someone to lead.

It’s your choice.  Sit back and wait for someone to hand you an opportunity. Or go find it yourself!  I hope that you’ll go find it.  As you are doing so, remember: commit to making every day a good day!

Just Good Days, folks!