Three helpful tips for leading with the right kind of mettle

Climbing Mount Everest. Saving a family from a burning building. Defending freedom in remote parts of the world. These scenarios are clear acts of honor and courage. Do the rest of us find the concept of courage less important?

It shouldn’t, because every day, small acts of courage by honorable leaders make significant impacts in our lives and culture.

If you examine examples of dishonorable behavior, courage is likely what is lacking. People know what to do but they don’t have the courage to make the honorable choice and act on it.

Growing in courage is at the core of any personal or leadership development plan. Otherwise, fear takes us out of the battle and leads us to abandon our good intentions. This concept isn’t about attaining perfection but adopting courage and honor as the guiding force for our daily decision-making.

The power of role models

Courageous role models can strengthen our commitment and increase our courage. In the prisoner of war camps of Vietnam, my senior ranking officer, Capt. Ken Fisher, was kept awake for 23 days and nights, bound to a small stool in leg irons, handcuffed and often blindfolded, and only unbound to eat a meager meal twice a day.

His example as well as other leaders in the camp inspired the rest of us to greater courage.

Choosing courage instead of fear

Though the issues of dishonor that we see in our culture aren’t about torture, pain or physical suffering, they are founded in the fears of confrontation, standing up for what’s right or even giving positive feedback. Cowardly leadership responses undermine the organization and lead to many other problems of accountability, execution and morale.

We all have our fear points and times of weakness, so here are three things we can do to be more courageous:

  1. Become more aware of your doubts and fears. Reflect on the areas where you put off a decision or delay taking action. More than likely you need courage to move ahead.
  2. Sort it out and make a plan. If you don’t have clarity, check in with a teammate or someone you trust to get another perspective of the situation. They don’t have the same emotional investment or concerns you have, and they may be able to encourage you in your next steps.
  3. Lean into the pain of your doubts and fears to do what you know is right. You can’t go wrong doing right. Just start moving ahead with your plan. In hindsight, it’s amazing how often lies about ourselves and the situation are the source of our doubts and fears. Courage helps us disarm lies, discover truth and ultimately deliver us more freedom.

Remember to be courageous. And as one of my POW buddies wisely adds, “Courage is contagious.”

The Leading with Honor Courage Challenge card can be helpful for coaching yourself. For information, visit