The One Thing That Always Accompanies Bravery

Great leaders are sometimes afraid

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Last month, I spent a day with some of my peers in the graduate program at a leadership conference called Leadercast. Sitting in a room with 1,900 other professionals from around northwest Arkansas, we listened to men and women from many different walks of leadership – politics, sports, the military, and more – give their take on bravery and how it is a fundamental trait of any great leader.

Some of the speakers were people you’d expect to be experts on bravery, like CDR Rorke Denver, a former Navy SEAL, or Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for women’s education who has survived an attempt on her life.

But I noticed a common thread running throughout the entire event.

Each one of these leaders has been afraid.

Very afraid. Afraid of failure, afraid of criticism, or even afraid for their life.

Andy Stanley, lead pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta gave a few myths we tend to believe about bold leadership. Here’s one: bold leadership is reserved for fearless people.

There are a couple of reasons that isn’t true. First, as Stanley comically points out, all the fearless people are dead.

CDR Denver gives us the second: “The counterpoint to bravery is fear. They don’t exist without each other.” In other words, fear is a prerequisite for bravery. It’s a matter of what you choose to do when faced with fear that counts.

So how do you “become brave” in response to fear? I don’t have the full answer to that question, but CDR Denver gives us this helpful insight.

Bravery isn’t a solo experience.

As I was sitting at this conference, I had pictures in my head of these great leaders doing big things all by themselves. Somehow they had the courage to step forward and face what many of us would be afraid of.

But now I realize that I wasn’t seeing the whole picture. Behind each one of these leaders was a group of friends, mentors, and advocates encouraging them to press on.

This changed my perspective on bravery. I thought that bravery came totally from within. Now I know that it comes mostly from without and that the key to acting with bravery in my life is surrounding myself with people who encourage me to take bold action in the face of fear.

Connor Phillips
MS in Leadership and Ethics Student

Blog HomePosted By: Connor Phillips - 6/3/15 2:45 AM

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