Taking Steps toward Leadership–Brave

Ooooo!  Bravery!  From the dictionary:   “bold, intrepid, daring, dauntless, heroic. Brave, courageous, valiant, fearless, gallant refer to confident bearing in the face of difficulties or dangers. Brave is the most comprehensive: it is especially used of that confident fortitude or daring that actively faces and endures anything threatening.”  I’m picturing Buzz Lightyear, or the Martian with Matt Damon, or William Wallace.  Hawkeye Pierce of  MASH said once, “Bravery is when a guy cold enough, or tired enough, or hungry enough that he doesn’t give a damn.”  He was trying to get food for his unit while being pinned down by a sniper.  The people that went back INTO the Twin Towers on 911 were more worried about getting people out and safe than personal consequences.  Bravery means being scared and doing it anyway.  It’s when the goal and the purpose is more important than your safety.  When your belief and your faith are so strong, that even under threat of death or torture, you boldly do what needs to be done.  Action films are full of Brave people.  So is life.

I recall a story told to me by a Scout master.  He and his troop were at a boy scout camp, one where previously there had been a tornado that had killed some scouts.  One of the boys in his troop was paralyzed with fear due to an approaching storm; he’d been at that event when the tornado had hit and had lost some friends!  The scout leader said to the boy, “I need your help.  If the weather gets really bad, I will give you this signal–I will put my cap on.  I want you to coolly and calmly direct the younger scouts into the safety shelter.  I’m depending on you to keep them from panicking.  You’ve been in this situation before and you know how dangerous it can be and exactly what to do.”  The kid started to cry, but nodded his head in agreement.  The next day, the wind came up, and the sky got dark and the lightning flashed.  The radio crackled a storm warning, and the scout leader put on his cap and nodded at the boy.  This young man gathered together the 4 or 5 newest scouts, grabbed sleeping bags and blankets, and herded them into the shelter to sit in a corner in ready position.  While the older scouts and scout masters broke down the camp to prevent debris from becoming dangerous weapons of the storm, this brave boy was singing camp songs and telling jokes to keep the younger ones from fear.  When the scout leaders and the other boys got in, they were soaking wet, and the young leader and the younger boys provided them with blankets and continued to sing camp songs throughout the duration of the storm.  The tornado never appeared.  Later, the boy went to the scout master and said, “I was afraid too.  But I remembered what you told me so I knew what these tenderfeet were feeling.  Did I do ok?”  The scoutmaster nodded and replied, “You were the bravest scout today!  I’m so proud of you!”

So what does bravery have to do with leadership?  How many times are you going to have to protect your team mates from a tornado?  How many times is the boss going to threaten you with torture or death when missing a deadline?  Do you ever consider consequences, and I’m not talking immediate but long term, for the action or inaction you choose to make?  If you have to make a choice on what is easy vs. what is right, do you choose the right?  Being a whistle-blower in a bad situation can bring devastation to you personally, to your team, to your family, and to the company you represent.  But inaction leads to much more dire consequences.  If you discipline your child for doing something you know will cause problems in his adult life, he may not like you for a while and may even rebel against your counsel.  Does that make a difference in how you correct him?  It might.  But if it has you wondering if what he did was so bad, it was just a little white lie, it was just a shoplifted pen, it was just the neighbor’s cat, you are not brave enough to have children.

Fear is a very real thing.  It doesn’t have to be a fear of physical injury.  It can be the fear of failure, the fear of ridicule, the fear of success even!  Any time you or one of your team mates faces a fear and moves forward anyway, they show bravery.  We’re not talking recklessness, showing disregard for consequences or danger, we’re talking measured, calm responses.  There is this show, “Naked and Afraid,” where they take experienced survival experts into a wilderness and drop them off to see if they can get from point A to point B with nothing to work with.  Some exhibit bravery, and some recklessness.  One show, the 1st obstacle they had to overcome was these very sharp thorns on the ground.  They did not consider using small twigs to weave together foot coverings, they just soldiered on.  One of them had so many thorns embedded in his feet that they got septic and he had to be carted out in an ambulance.  On another adventure, one was worried about a team mate that was getting dehydrated, and used some of his purified water to make sure his partner was ok, then drank from the un-purified stream.  He got sick and ended up going out in an ambulance.  You see the trend?  True bravery brings out the best in human beings.  We, as a species, are able to invent, configure, make do, and thereby conquer most dangers.  There is always an element of risk involved in any new endeavor.  One must analyze the risk and if the project is worthy and the outcome is desirable, find ways to be brave enough to confront the fear and the risk to get done what needs to get done.  You have to be brave to move forward.  Remember that a turtle can only move forward if he sticks his neck out.  The bravery you exhibit may never make it into a magazine or onto a movie screen, or even to the water cooler.  But the braver you get, the more leaders you attract.  People will know that you can be depended on to make sure things get done.  Be Brave!

Read Apollo 13, Winston Churchill biography, Ghandi biography, Truman biography, William Wallace biography.

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