Here’s a great essay from U.S. Senator John McCain on courage. He defines courage as more than just doing something you are afraid of. It’s doing something right in the face of fear. “Courage is that rare moment of unity between conscience, fear, and action, when something deep within us strikes the flint of love, of honor, of duty, to make the spark that fires our resolve.”
He also points out that we are not asking our leaders to show courage and they are not asking us to show courage. So we are not seeing a lot of courage in government organizations nor in business corporations.
One Reply to “Courage”
Thanks for this post. I recall reading it recently and being impressed â€“ positively â€“ by what he wrote. John McCain probably has more qualification to write about courage than most people who are currently in the spotlight.
Heâ€™s right in identifying a deficit in courage. We, as a culture, want to feel good and will reward those who tell us what we want to hear. And will punish those who tell us what we donâ€™t want to hear.
Our culture has no mechanism to reward courage, neither in public service nor in business. It seems simply to be an archaic concept that has no genuine current value. Those people who try to display it will quickly end up on the virtual scrap heap. What would be the political fate of a candidate who proposes a financially responsible, realizable way to recover from the current national debt within a reasonable time frame? A sound thrashing in the election followed by political oblivion. The rewards go to those who proclaim how good times are, who make unrealizable campaign promises, and who distribute little sops to the electorate. In corporate life, what happens to the employee who recognizes activity that endangers the public and brings attention to it? Usually it is immediate unemployment and legal troubles.
He says â€œâ€¦ leaders who lack courage arenâ€™t leaders.â€ I agree. But the individual who occupies the top spot in an organization, whether political or corporate, is not necessarily a leader anyway. It more often is someone who has shown the most political savvy, or who has wielded the most power and influence to get there. Then, when the desired position is achieved, the â€œwinnerâ€ is at a loss. The requirements of courage and responsibility canâ€™t be met. That leaves a leadership vacuum at the place where leadership is most necessary. The whole organization suffers as a result, but not necessarily immediately. Often it takes years for the damage to become apparent.
Heâ€™s right. Greed and selfishness have taken over because those traits often have tangible rewards connected to them. Courage hardly ever does.
Sure, for some there are elaborate medal ceremonies, parades, commendations, and the like. But when the public attention goes on to the next entertaining event is there any continuation of the gratitude in the form of opportunity, employment, easing of qualification restrictions, or other consideration? Hardly. Thatâ€™s not a real reward, itâ€™s lip service.
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