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Courage is Not the Absence of Fear

I work with leaders who often need multiple levels of approvals, consensus, and buy-in. For the most part, it makes sense—we all need to have our decisions supported, and we all need counsel to strengthen the odds of the right outcome. However, at some point, a leader has to make a decision.


All too often though, the problem is clear, the pain that the problem is producing is acute, and the consensus being sought isn’t for advice but rather for “air cover,” CYA, or to mitigate the fear that is holding the executive back from making the call.


Andrew Jackson is purported to have said, “One person with courage forms a majority.”


Courage is facing fear and adversity with the conviction that the risk is worth the chance that your action or decision is correct. Courage in a split second, life/death case is black and white, you exhibit it, or you don’t. For the rest of us, courage is acting before the house is on fire.


Professional courage is making decisions before the pain is acute; before the toxic employee disrupts even more of your team’s esprit de corps. Or before your balance sheet reveals too little cash to invest in a new initiative, or before your customers or members stop consuming your service.


Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it is the mental toughness, the moral conviction, and the willingness to form a majority of one if necessary to do what you believe is the right thing at the right time.


What decision could you make today that will set the wheels in motion for a better future?