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A Leader of Courage Builds a Team of Courage

To have Integrity, you can’t just talk about Integrity - you must have the Courage to exercise Integrity when your convictions are put to the test.

It never fails. As soon as you commit to doing the right thing, circumstances will arise that will challenge your resolve. It’s like deciding to go on a diet. As soon as you decide to cut pasta or fried foods out of your diet, somebody fixes lasagna or brings home KFC for dinner! My test came soon after I committed to exercising a higher level of Integrity in my work.

Our team was attending a national sales meeting focused on a new approach to selling one of our products. I had recently made a pledge to my team telling them we were no longer going to operate in “the gray areas”. But the direction I received from my manager crossed the line into those gray areas I had recently pledged not to cross. Now the team I led was staring at me during our session with the other sales teams. And, I knew what they were thinking. “Will Dave back down and ask us to do what he had pledged not to do again?”

We left the larger meeting and moved on to our individual team breakout rooms. As soon as our door was closed, I let our team know again, “No gray areas.” Some people questioned the wisdom of going against the direction from above. Others were concerned that we may be the only team not operating in the gray areas and that could hurt our performance. This was a test of my Integrity and the Integrity of everyone on our team. But, Integrity tests are also tests of Courage. To have Integrity, you can’t just talk about Integrity - you must have the Courage to exercise Integrity when your convictions are put to the test.

I left our breakout room and tracked down my manager. I let him know about my “no gray areas” pledge to my team. Though my manager initially pushed back, he eventually relented with a veiled warning. “It’s your team. But, I think you’re being too legalistic. And this will probably hurt your team and you.”

When I walked back into our breakout room, I let the team know that we got my manager’s approval to move forward with our plans and avoid the gray areas. The sense of relief among the team was palpable. They did not want to return to the old ways of operating. I had seen their confidence in our message and in me grow since we decided to always choose Integrity as a team.

Another interesting thing happened which I did not recognize until years later. The team changed that day. When they saw me exercise the Courage to stand up for what I believed in, they started speaking up as well. Our meetings became more interactive and active debates occurred more readily. They challenged me and my ideas as well as challenging each other. We grew stronger and trusted each other more.

How can a leader respond with Courage and inspire their team to do the same?

  • Change our approach when someone else has a better idea.

  • Coach and/or discipline an experienced or top performer when they violate a policy.

  • Demonstrate the values we, our teams, or our families claim to believe in – even when it’s hard to do or nobody else is doing it.

Teams want to follow leaders who go beyond just saying the right things. They want a leader who will actually make tough choices when their values and convictions are tested. They want to know their leader has the Courage to avoid situational Integrity and choose to do the right thing even when it is difficult to do. When I finally decided to act in alignment with my words, our team thrived. Yours will too.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • How did you respond the last time your convictions were challenged?

  • What reaction do you think your team or your family will have if they see you exercise Courage when those convictions are tested again?


It is important to us for you to have an opportunity to exercise Courage, not only individually, but together as a team. This is why we have created practice cards with scenarios. We invite you to discuss as a team what it means to exercise Courage via our Coaching Cards.

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