Over the last year or so, some ofus who value the inherent potential every human soul brings to the planet might be experiencing emotional and physical fatigue while attempting to cope with the constant barrage of negativity and incivility (Christine Porath, 2016) coming from all sorts of places. Researchers such as Dr. Angela Duckworth have found those with a level of “grit” when challenges seem insurmountable, may prove to be better equipped to forge ahead as being champions for change, which encompasses inclusion, diversity, and equality. Let us not despair, but have courage.
In my opinion, the single most important character trait needed to champion any change effort might be courage. In Peterson and Seligman’s work on virtue, Character Strengths and Virtues, French philosopher André Comte-Sponville (2001), was quoted of saying while fears and the acts to defeat them have a contextual component depending onculture, the will to overcome fear through courage “is always more valued than cowardice or faintheartedness”.
Political Scientist, Robert D. Putnam (1997) offered an interesting account describing courage as three types: physical, moral, and psychological.
- Physical courage is required to overcome the fear of injury or death to save others or oneself.
- Moral courage centers around ethical integrity or authenticity risking losing friends, employment, privacy, or prestige.
- Psychological courage includes the ability to confront front a life threatening illness ordestructive habit or situation; being brave while facing one’s inner demons.
Being on the front lines of any change initiative, whether it is personal, organizational, or societal, courage is a pre-requisite.
Some of us might have had our leadership acumen awaken by the recent events in Charlottesville. Not to spurn a political debate, let me attempt to amplify the virtue ofcourage.
I do not know Ms. Heyer personally, nor do I know any one in her family, whereby I only attest to what can be gleaned from various news and media venues. With that as a backdrop and relating it to Putnam’s thoughts, it occurs to me that Ms. Heyer exhibited all three characteristics. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times reporting on Ms. Heyer:
After reading this article, and reflecting on the events in Charlottesville, I began to question my leadership. I have since resolved to do more in my sphere of influence to address bigotry, discrimination, and hatred. It occurs to me that I have gotten a bit complacent and tepid in my commitment toward equality for all. What about you?
I am reminded by one of my favorite quotes:
“It has been profoundly said, and how true it is, that the only thing necessary for evil to exist is for good people to remain silent… The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
The question for me, and for some of us, canwe muster the willpower to demonstrate courage during challenging and difficult times?
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