In days gone by, one of the chief requirements for being a leader in any form was that you had to have courage.
Judging from the way modern day leaders conduct themselves, however, this no longer seems to be the case.
People have different views of what courage is, with many thinking that it’s about demonstrating that you’re not afraid of what others may say or do in response to any actions you take. Courage is shown, in fact, not in what people say but in what they do.
Some of the most courageous people ever known have not been big speech makers or big talkers at all. But when they’ve taken action, they’ve demonstrated a courage that has enthralled and impressed millions. By the same token, there are those who have talked a big game but, when put to the test, have shown that they were just big talkers and nothing more.
Remember about a year or so back when the topic of Jacob Zuma’s charges were being discussed (yet again)? When people back then suggested that he should be made to answer the charges against him in a court of law, his response at the time was that he would like nothing better than the opportunity to answer to the charges in a court of law as he was not afraid of going to jail because he had been to jail before.
That’s what he SAID. Yet he has been DOING everything possible to avoid facing a court and the possibility of going to jail.
More recently, further examples of a lack of courage have been the sudden ailments that affected Dudu Myeni and Malusi Gigaba to such an extent that neither of them was able to testify in the Parliamentary enquiry into Eskom. Doctor’s certificates have yet to be produced …
The private sector also has its fair share of leaders who have no courage. Try and find CEO Markus Jooste and CFO Ben la Grange now that the Steinhoff can of worms has been opened. Do they have the courage to face the music? Not on your life! They’re probably going to use a lot of their ill-gotten gains to avoid taking responsibility for what they’ve done. No courage there!
But back to the matter of why there is such a little courage among leaders …
For one, the wrong people have wormed their way into leadership positions – people who are in it for themselves and not for the greater good of an organisation or any others, for that matter.
To call a spade a spade, one has to accept that such people are selfish. They have one goal in mind – to use their leadership positions to acquire as much power, as much influence (by legal or illegal means) and as much money as they can for themselves. Selfish people do not have courage. That’s because courage – in a leadership position at any rate – is more about what you do for others than about what you do for yourself.
If you know that what you believe in is right and true and of value and of benefit to many others, you will have what is known as the courage of your convictions. That means you will be prepared to stand up for what you believe in. If however you are in it for yourself and you secretly know that your motives are self enrichment, you actually have no noble convictions. And you know it. So secretly, you are never going to stand up for convictions you do not have.
Another reason that current leaders have so little courage is that these people have been allowed to get away with things and not been held accountable for their selfish actions. They come to expect that this will continue. Let’s face it, someone who has no courage will never attempt to do something illegal or unethical if they are sure they will get caught. It’s because they think they will get away with it that they do what they do, not because they have courage.
How courageous a leader are you? Do you have clear convictions as to what is right, good and true and then have the courage to stand up for those convictions? If so, you’re one of a rare breed and I salute you. We need more leaders like you.
It’s time for good, ethical leaders to demonstrate the courage of their convictions to first hold themselves to account and then to hold others to account.
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and helps business leaders learn to lead with purpose and agility.