As with all of my blogs, I am writing today to ask for help and perspective on a term; some words; a phrase. Once again, I’ve come across something that makes no sense to me– something that I just don’t get, no matter how hard I try to understand or how many angles I consider it. I’m lost.
Maybe I’m slow. Maybe I’m dulled out from all this “recovery” stuff I keep hearing about. Maybe I haven’t eaten enough protein lately or kept up with enough vitamins… Or maybe I’ve become as complacent and disillusioned and dispassionate as so many others who now turn a deaf ear to the latest clever attempts that educators, consultants, and media moguls (cough, cough) make up to seem as though they actually know what is going on in the leadership arena.
And so I ask you about the latest term that I see EVERYWHERE– a term I *used* to think was poised for excellence, positioned for capturing a powerful and contemplative tone, practiced by leaders who really understood what it meant and why it was important:
C O U R A G E O U S L E A D E R S H I P
Ugh. I can’t even type it out without taking a swig of Pepto Bismol right afterward. “Courageous Leadership.” What the HECK does THAT mean?? (deep breath in, deep breath out). WHAT DOES THAT MEAN????
To find out what the term means, I did what every other respectable citizen does and Googled it. Here’s what I came up with in just one flash… and my head started to spin. Some of it was actually about leadership. Some of it was religious. Some of it was social conscience. Some of it was bunk, and some of it is probably at least an interesting read. As I browsed through only one question came to mind: who ARE these people, and since when is being “courageous” an option for leadership to the point where people are making money off of writing about it??? (I’m in the WRONG business….).
OK, now hold on– I was born at night, but I wasn’t born LAST night.
Sure, I recognize the importance of qualifying the word “leadership”. I get it: putting cool and flashy words in front of the word “leadership” helps to rekindle the meaning of what leadership should be about.
But where do we draw the line?
Do we REALLY need to put the word COURAGEOUS in front of LEADERSHIP these days?
Will we need to put INNOVATIVE in front of INVENTOR?
Or maybe we need to put CREATIVE in front of ARTIST?
Or even PROTECTIVE in front of PARENT? (oh wait… I think we in the USA have done all three of those…)
See? This is why I’m so confused. Isn’t “courage” a BASIC TENANT of leadership? Have we become so focused on things outside of basic leadership that we are so willing now to latch onto a phrase like “courageous leadership”?
Maybe. (sigh…) Maybe.
Here’s what I ask of all of you, young or old, fresh or cynical, left or right, man or woman, eastern hemisphere or western hemisphere:
“Is being courageous an option when you think about leadership?”
Yes, I personally know current leaders who are cowards. I’ve worked with weak leaders who had no backbone. And I’ve regrettably followed leaders whose very nature defies the existence and definition of the term “courageous.” I think we’ve all been there. My point is this: do we qualify leadership with terms like “courage” so as to be able to deal with those who aren’t courageous and highlight those who are? Are we doing this to avoid holding accountable the non-courageous? Is this a reflection of our own cowardice?
Are we at a point where we’ve had so many cowardly leaders that we’re willing to celebrate a phrase that outwardly puts “courage” into it? Or are we simply reaching for ANY opportunity to make it seem like Leadership actually requires some level of character, virtue, and greatness…
I’ll leave you to ponder… Meanwhile, I’ve created a new phrase that I’m going to inject into mainstream: “Basic Leadership.”
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