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Guest Commentary: The Courage To Have Courage

Aristotle describes courage as the “first virtue,” as it makes all other virtues possible. In my professional opinion, courage is the most important business virtue. Leaders with courage lay the groundwork for positive action.

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John Passante is a broad-based senior executive with over 30 years of extensive organizational development and senior human resource experience with progressive corporations involved in multiple locations, both domestic and international.

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As we all navigate through our business challenges and opportunities, I wonder how often the word courage enters our minds and vocabulary. We focus on sales growth, market share, making key decisions and leading, which are paramount to success – indeed the essence of courage is making well-thought-out decisions. Being bold and measured, spirited and reflective involves risk-taking for the good of the cause. Demonstrating emotional intelligence and confidence and a good dose of humility!

Aristotle describes courage as the “first virtue,” as it makes all other virtues possible. In my professional opinion, courage is the most important business virtue. Leaders with courage lay the groundwork for positive action. They choose their battles carefully, and manage their emotions.

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True courage is taking actions despite the potential risk. Courageous leaders are invested in the good of the organization. And work to earn the trust of others. Many are viewed as champions of change.

Courage embodies change that is greater than the sum of its parts. And, creates something that will long be remembered. Competent leaders with courage are masters of timing and action. Poor sales results create an urgency for courageous action.

The question to ponder is: Is courage in the fiber of your organization? Is it the glue of your company’s culture, credo and values? The mission is to keep your values and purpose front-of-mind. It takes courage to challenge a customer when you feel that the business relationship is one-sided! The situation should be approached with facts, a non-judgmental attitude, and should emphasize that you seek value-sharing in the relationship. A true win-win!

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Understanding and empathy go a long way in this situation. Courage is the bedrock of:

  • Character
  • Commitment
  • Caring
  • Contagious Energy

Courageous leaders have a history of stellar performance and accumulate a portfolio of goodwill, a record of competence and integrity. They possess the traits of purpose, persuasion and the ability to give voice to the values of the company.

Like most successful actions, courageous leadership is steeped in preparation, framing the situation, knowing the organization (your audience) and managing the facts and emotions. Courage is one of the attributes of all great leaders, and one rarely associated with the role. Effective leaders demand the truth (courage) even when it is unpleasant, knowing that good information – even when it hurts – leads to good decision-making.

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There is no obligation more important than leading with courage, and the ability to make hard truths palatable is a trait that long-lived leaders have mastered.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

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