I was not the coolest kid in school, and that’s saying something because it was a pretty low-keyed place. Maybe it was because my overprotective mother worked in the school cafeteria to keep an eye on me. Maybe it was my inability to stop talking in class. The truth is it didn’t bother me because I had my twin brother to play with and my mother thought we walked on water. However there was one thing I couldn’t stand, and that was to be called “Chicken!” No kid wants to be chicken. We all want to be brave and courageous, like Superman, no fear!
Now that I’m older, I know sometimes fear is a good thing. Maybe being “chicken” kept me from jumping off the jungle gym and breaking my arm like my youngest daughter once did. I also know the satisfaction of overcoming fear and showing courage! Just like the Cowardly Lion, we are all wired to be at times courageous. We just need to have the….well courage, to flip the switch. It is not a pin or a badge but it is the way we face the everyday fears and obstacles that life throws at us. “Success is not final” wrote Winston Churchill, “[and] failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
This week courage has been on my mind for several reasons. The first was watching Pope Francis face his hundreds of thousands of followers for the first time. Despite his faith, there must have been some fear imbedded in his soul as he contemplated the profound responsibility he assumed. And he willing shared that fact as he asked the faithful asking in his first appearance to pray for him. Surely an act of courage!
Another reason I’ve been thinking of courage is from watching the prelude to “March Madness”. Countless athletes who put their gifts and shortcomings on public display for everyone to see. It is much like have a TV camera in your office. How many of us would want our work days turned into a live feed? I suspect for some, shows like Survivor would be mundane by comparison. By the way, although my beloved St John’s team had a rough patch at the end of the season. the team showed great character and resilience-also courageous traits.
In my book, Humanity at Work: Encouraging Spirit, Achievement and Truth to Flourish in the Workplace and in speaking to groups around the country, I discuss the need for courageous leaders. I encourage you to pay extra attention to the courage you see around you and focus on individuals whose courage you admire. Think about those leader that has faced adversity with strength and dignity and how you hope to do the same. The really good news is that every such lessons will shape the way you treat others and inspire positive changes in your leadership philosophy.
Remember the next time you start to feel like a “chicken” just to flip the switch and embrace the courage that makes for great leaders.