The Courage to Lead: Make It Count

Tue, 2017-05-09 16:44 -- tomjonez


Continuing the discussion of Courage as it relates to leadership, we cannot ignore the reality that not all experiences in leadership are smooth – or even positive. Obstacles arise, choices are made, and not every decision works out well.

As it turns out, such are the circumstances that mark the difference between average and extraordinary leadership. A classic article from Harvard Business Review entitled, “Crucibles of Leadership,” puts it this way:

“…recent research has led us to conclude that one of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership is an individual’s ability to find meaning in negative events and to learn from even the most trying circumstances. Put another way, the skills required to conquer adversity and emerge stronger and more committed than ever are the same ones that make for extraordinary leaders.”[1]

Most of us do not welcome difficulty in our lives, let alone when we hold leadership positions where decisions affect not only us, but also those we are leading.  Yet the reality of life is that challenging situations are inevitable.  And therein we find the grist in the mill of leadership development.

Challenges call on us to face the issue at hand – and more pointedly - to face ourselves.  We will either rise to the occasion and seek solutions, or we will shirk back from the difficulty of decision-making and wallow in the swamp of indecision.

The test arises in the obstacle we face - and the outcome is based not on whether we “get it right,” but rather on what we learn from the experience. The difficulty becomes the fulcrum; our response determines our readiness to use it as leverage to spring with increased mettle to handle the next leadership challenge.

Challenges that arise therefore don’t need to result in ultimate failure; rather, experiences that produce short-term set-backs can instead become the central laboratory for growth into exceptional leadership capability.

In short, for those who step up to the challenge, such events can further develop the Courage to Lead.

[1] Warren Bennis and Robert J. Thomas, “Crucibles of Leadership,” Harvard Business Review, May 9, 2017, Quoted Online:

Photo Credit: Will Van Wingerden -

[1] Warren Bennis and Robert J. Thomas, “Crucibles of Leadership,” Harvard Business Review, May 9, 2017, Quoted Online: