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Why Do Some Executives Do Courage Well and Others Don’t

You have to DO what you want to BE.

In history, we can look back at executive level leaders who exercised Courage in the face of incredible adversity. Lincoln, Mandela, Zelenskyy are some examples. We have the advantage of watching these leaders, who’s decisions actually impact entire countries, and honor them for the character they’ve displayed.

The stakes are high for leaders in the c-suites of major corporations, or for division and group vice presidents in those corporations. The stakes are high for law enforcement executives and for their counterparts in the fire services. And we don’t want to minimize what is at stake for small business owners or non-profit executives.

What is at stake? Other people’s jobs, community health and safety, organization financial performance, public sentiment, employee retention, moral and legal codes of conduct….

There is a lot that weighs on people who have climbed to the upper rungs of the ladder in their chosen profession. The pressure can be enormous, and it is often a lonely job. Very few people can understand what it is like unless they have been there themselves and felt that pressure.

Some leaders have famously failed under that pressure: Presidents, CEO’s, and local government leaders. Some have risen to the challenge and responded with Courage. What is the difference between these two groups? Most leadership failures are in fact character failures. And character failures can often be traced back to fear.

The key to an executive exercising Courage in those big, meaningful moments is what they have done in the smaller tests in their past. Courage is a habit. You develop it through repetition. The more frequently you exercise Courage, the more it becomes like muscle memory, and you do it without thinking. The choices we consciously make become unconscious choices with practice. That applies to choosing fear and for choosing Courage.

As someone rising through the ranks, what we practice now will become the muscle memory of the future. Lincoln, Mandela, and Zelenskyy didn’t magically obtain the Courage to do what they have done. They developed the habit of Courage in the small moments so they rose above the pressure and the fear that accompanies every executive leadership role.

The best way to prepare for becoming a Leader of Character tomorrow is to begin to do what Leaders of Character do today. You have to DO what you want to BE.

Thank goodness we have some executive leaders in history who have shown us what to DO so we can BE who we are called to BE.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • Who is an executive leader whom you admire?

  • How do they exercise Courage?

Where can you exercise Courage now so you are prepared to exercise Courage later?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.

Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

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