Icon of Bravery
At the age of 26, he became the Prime Minister of the most powerful Empire. He is considered one of the greatest leaders who ever lived. It wasn’t the success during the good times that made him stand out but rather it was when his country and the world order was threatened that made him an icon of bravery.
A mighty army led by a ruthless dictator was met with a courageous, fierce, and unwavering leader. The Nazi Germany was conquering Western Europe at a lightning speed and their victory was blazing like a bushfire. The last victory they needed to take over the entire Europe was the small Island nation of England. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill took on the mammoth task of defending his nation against a power that was astronomical, against all odds of winning. Churchill’s courage is well captured in his hope infused that rallied his people, he said, “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”. In the end Britain, emerged victorious and began a cascade of victories against the Nazi German. Winston became the embodiment of courageous leadership in our modern history.
A leader: John C. Maxwell, the top leadership expert defined leadership as influence. John Quincy Adams, the sixth American President said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Contrary to popular belief, leadership is not based on positions and titles but rather on influence. You don’t become a leader when you’re made a manager or a team leader, you become a leader when you influence a person. If you examine your life, you will find someone, your child, husband, or wife, or some people, your team or your employees, who are looking up to you for directions and guidance, this makes you a leader. You don’t have to be a Winston Churchill, but you can develop the courage to lead the people under your influence, to encourage them to never ever give up, and like Churchill, inspire them to be bold in the face of uncertainty.
Traits of Courageous Leaders: Forbes Magazine published an article that outlined the traits of courageous leaders. Here were my top five:
- Seek feedback and listen
- Communicate openly and frequently
- Lead change
- Give credit to others
- Hold people (and yourself) accountable
Examining the list above, not only did I desire to possess all of the traits, I also realized that courageous leaders are in short supply. And from the principles of economics, when the supply his low the demand is high. We live in a time when there is a shortage of courageous leaders. Consequently, this has made those among us who are willing to be courageous enough to lead to be of great value. In ministry or in the marketplace, if you want to multiply your value and live a great impact in the society, then you must be willing to develop yourself to be a courageous leader. In today’s post, my goal is to share with you three underlying principles that will make you a courageous leader.
1. Personal integrity
The number one personal goal of anyone who wants to be a great leader is to first and foremost choose to be a person of integrity. Integrity is the foundation of courageous leadership. Trust gives permission for people to listen to you and to be led by you. Integrity with people is the cornerstone on which trust is built. Integrity means being transparent to the people you lead. They see you for who you are. It is consistently behaving in a manner that is in line with our moral principles. It is admitting when we are wrong and showing willingness to change for the better as a leader. John Maxwell very well showed its importance when he said, “Integrity is important in building relationships. And is the foundation upon which many other qualities for success are built, such as respect, dignity, and trust.” So, since this is the foundation to building courage to lead, examine and take care of your character, upon which integrity is exercised, then align your actions with your virtues and moral principles.
Once a leader builds trust with his people, he can now draw them closer and speak to them from the heart. Once distrust, which is the number one threat to leadership is eradicated, the people embrace the leader, and a value-based relationship is cultivated.
2. Valuing people
It is impossible to lead people who you don’t value. Every leader in history that you could think off, that’s truly celebrated long after they are gone, valued people. Valuing people is loving people. It is to make everyone under your influence feel important.
Going back to Churchill, he was one of the most popular leaders during his time in office. In a scene depicted in the film The Darkest Hour directed by Joe Wright, Churchill is seen riding the London subway in a goal to find out what the ordinary Londoners thought about a heated debate of whether England would stand up against Adolf Hitler or settle for an occupation by the Nazi. Whether it happened exactly as depicted in the film is not of importance here, but history has it that Churchill valued people and what they thought, he would regularly find his way to the common people and hold what is equivalent to what we nowadays call town hall meetings. Valuing people is what gave Churchill the courage to lead his people. Even when he had to rally people into war, it was easier because he had already showed that he valued them. A leader who truly values people will cultivate a faith-based relationship with the people. And the leader develops unwavering faith to lead.
3. Unwavering Faith
Unwavering faith is what makes people committed to a leader. While integrity ushers in trust and valuing people creates an environment that everyone knows that they matter, faith speaks of victory and a brighter future. Leaders with unwavering faith brings calmness in uncertainty, clears the smog of the present hardships, shine light through the darkness of disappointments; they present to the people a brighter future despite the current circumstances.
Undergirding Churchill’s courage was unwavering faith. Faced with an ordeal of the most grievous kind, the Nazi German who wanted to destroy freedom, Churchill promised his newly formed government that they would fight with all the might and strength that God would give them. Most importantly, in the shadow of many months of struggle and suffering, he promised his people victory. When asked what his government’s aim was, he is quoted saying, “It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.” It’s this kind of faith that makes a leader courageous.
Whether you are leading your family to a brighter future or leading your team or organization in an ever-fast-changing world with very few predictable events, you can only have unwavering faith if you’re standing on a solid ground of integrity, valuing people, and most importantly placing your faith in God. As we can infer from Churchill’s words above, God is the source of strength and might when we are faced with challenges.
Colin Powell, retired four-star American Army general stated, “Leadership is solving problems.” To add to that, I would say that leadership is solving problems for others and with others. I task you to go and apply the three principles we have covered. Soon, you will start to notice that your courage to lead is increasing. I promise you as you become a courageous leader, your success in life will multiply.