60: Courageous Leadership


Are you a warrior going into battle, or just doing the war dance?
Are you a warrior going into battle, or just doing the war dance?

Welcome to episode 60! I am so excited to have been podcasting for 2 years, and have 60 episodes out there for you. I hope you are enjoying these shows and learning and growing in your leadership.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with great talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination alone are omnipotent.”  (Bennis and Nanus, Leaders–The Strategies for Taking Charge, Page 45)

This week I want to discuss courageous leadership. I want to start with a letter from a friend of mine who is head of a seminary, that is embarking on major change in his life and how he is doing so with courageous leadership.

Most of the content of this episode comes from chapter 16 of my book Change is Like a Slinky.

Take time to deliberate. But the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.-Napoleon Bonaparte

If you see a snake, just kill it. Don’t appoint a committee on snakes.-Ross Perot.

Leaders SHIP  meaning deliver).-Steve Jobs

In the Thirteenth Century Sir William Wallace, hero of Scotland and true patriot, desired peace and freedom by uniting the clans of his country. He gained the loyalty of the people, struck fear into his enemies and defied the cruel hand of an evil, waring and invading King–Edward ‘Longshanks’ Plantagenet I of England.  Never heard of William Wallace?  Well you probably do know an actor by the name of Mel Gibson who portrayed Wallace.  Gibson’s movie and direction landed the best picture and best director Oscars in 1995 for the movie named after William Wallace:  Braveheart.
At first blush, William Wallace would have been an unlikely candidate for “hero.” Born in Elderslie, in approximately 1272, the second son of a minor Scottish laird (lord), William was bound for the church. That’s the path most second sons took in 13th century Scotland. Family wealth, titles and lands were always inherited by first-born sons. William’s brother Malcolm, named for their father, would inherit what little wealth the Wallace family had. William would be a priest.
On closer examination, though, William Wallace had the early makings of a hero. At a time when most men stood 5 feet, Wallace was 6’7″. By the time he was 20, English invaders had already killed the father and older brother he adored. While at Cambuskenneth Abbey, studying with his uncle, William learned about the “idea” of freedom in a poem that today is part of the Wallace monument in Stirling, Scotland:
“Freedom is best I tell thee
Of all things to be won
Then never live within the bond
Of slavery my son”
English efforts to forever control the region would not go unchecked in Scotland as rage built within the young Wallace. Longshanks had required a mere six years to crush Wales. Wallace would see to it that his Scotland would not be completely subjected as Wales had been. But his efforts would result in a trial that was a gross judicial sham. And in his efforts to “legally” crush Wallace, Edward I created a Scottish martyr whose heroism is still honored 700 years later. (source: http://www.lawbuzz.com/justice/braveheart/king.htm)
Braveheart did not just taunt the enemy with a war dance.  He was a man of deed.  Do you know about the War Dance?  The War Dance was the ritual which American Indian warriors underwent before riding off to battle. There’s nothing wrong with the War Dance, when it actually leads to war. In fact, it’s an integral part of mustering the courage to risk your life.
The problem comes when a young, untested brave becomes so enamored with the chest-beating machismo of the Dance, the anticipation of victory, the planning, the fawning attention of nearby maidens, and the relative safety of the fire circle, that he begins to postpone his actual departure longer and longer. Soon it becomes sufficient to look like a warrior, sound like a warrior and be treated like a warrior — before long suffering the actual risks of warriordom begins to seem like a real bummer.
This metaphor offers us a potent and very helpful question to ask ourselves at any point of the change-making process. “Is this war, or is it War Dance”? Is it the real thing, or is it just the chest-beating that precedes the real thing?”  Are we going to actually get around to using live ammunition?
Theodore Roosevelt once gave the following speech entitled “The Man in the Arena” at the French Sorbonne in 1910. I think it dovetails perfectly with the War Dance metaphor.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
 

The War Dance

The war dance is an ancient tradition used to mentally prepare warriors for battle. It is a tested and well used technique, so long as the warrior does not dance for so long that it delays his leading the troops out to fight the battle. It is important to ask oneself: “is this the war, or just the war dance?” Are we just going to dance around, or are we actually going out to fight the battle? If we wait to long it becomes just useless posturing without action.

I can see some examples of this in my own life. I waited and pondered Donna for several months, concerned how it would affect the freedom I enjoyed as a single man.

SWOT Analysis

During our consideration of moving World Venture to Colorado we did a SWOT Analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) of whether or not we should indeed move. This is a part of the process and a good step to take. The problem is that many organizations take that analysis and put it on the shelf without ever analyzing it and making a decision whether the change should be done or not.

Courage and Risk Takers

Nothing worthwhile can ever be accomplished without determination. Admiral Hyman Rickover

 

The Preeminence of Passion
Courage is rooted in passion.  How strong is your passion factor?  It will make or break your holy war of change.  In his book, Organizing Genius, Warren Bennis analyzes great groups.  Using illustrations like Apple Computer and Disney, and even the Manhattan Project, he emphasizes how much passion plays a role in change.
“Great groups are engaged in holy wars.  The psychology of these high-minded missions is clear.  People know going in that they will be expected to make sacrifices, but they also know they are doing the monumental, something worthy of their best selves.  When you are frantically writing computer code, fueled by Coke and pizza, you don’t wonder whether your work is meaningful.  You are fully engaged, absorbed by the problem, lost in the task.  But people in great groups are different from those who spend countless hours enthralled to video games or other trivial pursuits.  Their clear, collective purpose makes everything they do seem meaningful and valuable.  A powerful enough vision can transform what would otherwise be lost in drudgery into sacrifice.”  (Warren Bennis, Organizing Genius, Perseus Publishing. p 204)
He goes on to explain that leaders of great groups recruit people for crusades, not jobs.  Are you able to frame your change proposal in terms of a crusade? I hope so. Hopefully, the work of your organization has some merit, fights some worthy adversary, leaves some legacy capable of being woven into the language of crusade.
If you wonder whether you have the courage to lead a charge for your organization, consider this poem on the subject of risk.
The Dilemma
By Ann Landers
To laugh is to risk appearing a fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk rejections.
To place your dreams before the crowd is to risk ridicule.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To go forward in the face of overwhelming odds is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life
is to risk nothing.  The person who risks nothing does nothing,  has nothing, is nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love.
Chained by his certitudes, he is a slave.
Only a person who takes risks is free.
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