Why Courage Is an Essential Leadership Quality

Courage stands on the back of the strength of conviction.

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Why Courage Is an Essential Leadership Quality

Here's what you need to know about why courage is an essential leadership quality:

  • Courage is an essential leadership quality and it can have an impact on the people you're leading.
  • People notice courage, adopt the fortitude, and follow the example.
  • As a leader, you will have to make bold decisions that won't always be popular but will be necessary.

Welcome to the leadership series. This series of articles will explore the fundamental traits that create great leaders. In today’s article, we will explore courage as a fundamental leadership quality, and we will do so through three examples:

  • Rosa Parks
  • Malala Yousafzai
  • Thich Quang Duc

Courage stands on the back of the strength of conviction. Let’s look at how these individuals provided stellar examples of this leadership trait.

Why Courage Is an Essential Leadership Quality

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.” Aristotle

It’s quite difficult to imagine any leader, past or present, that didn’t have courage. It’s truly a quality that enables every other value to be upheld.

When you describe someone as honest, virtuous, or having integrity, all of those attributes require them to stand up for what they believe in in the face of challenge. And to stand up to the challenges that test their values, the person will need to be courageous.

As a leader, you will have to make bold decisions that won’t always be popular but will be necessary. In those times, you need to remember the values that you and your business stand for. With courage, you will be able to uphold those values even when times are difficult.

Sometimes, you will need the courage to take action or provide someone feedback. Other times, you will need the courage to give other employees trust and believe that they have the necessary skill set to push through the obstacles.

The following three examples will help you stay courageous in your leadership path.

How Rosa Parks demonstrated courage

In 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress, sat on a bus to ride home. It was a cold December evening when she stepped on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and she sat down behind the “white” line on the bus.

Back in 1955, there was a line in the bus that separated the places where people could sit, and only Caucasians were allowed to sit at the front. Rosa sat behind the “white line,” and after a few stations, the bus was packed. The driver noticed that all the seats in the “white section” were filled and ordered the African-American passengers to stand up so that the Caucasian people could take their seats.

Rosa refused, knowing that this could mean harassment and lynching from people.

She was arrested and convicted in court for violating the laws of segregation. This event sparked the Civil Rights movement when the president of Montgomery’s NAACP branch used the case to fight segregation laws across the U.S.

Rosa Parks “sat” up for what was right, and she was courageous enough to risk the terrifying potential consequences of the day. Others noticed this, adopted her fortitude, and followed her example. And that’s how the boycott of public buses lasted 381 days in Montgomery.

The boycott, along with the courageous determination of Rosa Parks, eventually led to the U.S. Supreme Court banning racial segregation laws in public buses in Alabama.

Sometimes, you will need the courage to take action or provide someone feedback. Other times, you will need the courage to give other employees trust and believe that they have the necessary skill set to push through the obstacles.

How Malala Yousafzai demonstrated courage

Malala Yousafzai was born in Swat, Pakistan, in 1997. She attended school in Mingora, which is located in the Swat Valley. However, soon enough, the Taliban tried to take control of the area, and that’s where the problems started occurring.

The Taliban were opposed to girls going to school, and they started attacking the young women in the Swat area. That prompted Malala to speak out against the problems in the area. Soon enough, she held a speech in Peshawar titled “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?

A year later, when she was just eleven, she started blogging for B.B.C. In the beginning, she used a pseudonym, but her real name was revealed at the end of that year. She spoke relentlessly about the right of all women to have access to education, and people started noticing.

Her consistency and conviction were why she received Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize and International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. But the Taliban also noticed her platform and issued a death threat against her.

In October 2012, when she was just 15, the Taliban intercepted her regular school bus. They entered the bus, went inside, and shot Malala in the head. She was in critical condition, but miraculously, the doctors saved her life.

Six months after the incident, she was back in school in Birmingham, England. Nine months after the incident, she was celebrating her 16th birthday by giving a speech at the United Nations, where she talked about the need for girls’ education.

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How Thich Quang Duc demonstrated courage

Thich Quang Duc was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. He was living in South Vietnam in 1963, which, at that time, was under the horrible rule of President Ngo Dinh Diem.

The President had a ban that nobody could display any kind of religious symbols or flags in a country that’s 90% Buddhist. On May 8th, 1963, there was the annual celebration of Phat Dan. That was the birthday of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and the people went to the streets to celebrate the day.

Approximately 500 people celebrated the day and waved the Buddhist flags as part of their celebration.

Soon, the police came, followed by the army with armored vehicles. The parade soon turned into a protest, where the people asked to be treated equally as other religious groups in the country. Violence ensued, and nine people died in the process – two of them being children trampled under the armored vehicle.

The ultimate display of courage

A month later, on June 11th, 1963, Thich Quang Duc came with a couple of hundred Buddhist monks to the street intersection in Saigon square. Thich Quang Duc sat down in the lotus position and started chanting prayers. Then another monk came with a five-gallon canister filled with fuel and started dumping it on Thich Quang Duc’s head.

Thich Quang Duc remained calm and continued his prayers. After finishing the last one, he lit the match in his hand and sat in silence while his entire body started burning. He didn’t utter a single word as he stayed in the lotus position with his eyes closed.

The people on the street couldn’t believe what was happening.

The people on the street couldn’t believe what was happening while Thich Quang Duc was burning alive without moving a single muscle.

This event sparked protests around the country, and the pictures of the “burning man” even reached J.F.K, the U.S. president at the time. The Buddhist monks wanted equality for all religions in the country, and the President still didn’t give it to them. At the end of the year, sparked by Thich Quang Duc’s courageous act, the Vietnamese people overthrew president Ngo Dinh Diem.

Courage comes in different shapes and forms

All three of the above examples are people who were courageous enough to stand up for what they believed in. Their examples of courage ignited a spark in people that made them follow in these leaders’ footsteps and change situations.

When you face challenges, use these examples to remind you why courage is an essential leadership quality and what effects it can have on the people you’re leading.

Stay tuned for the next article in our leadership series. We’ll explore other famous examples such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Victor Frankl,  Ernest Shackleton, and many others.

 

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