The courage that Jack Kennedy displayed in facing down the Cuban missile crisis, that Churchill showed in fostering Britons’ courage to show a stiff upper lip in the face of Nazi bombing, that any leader musters when he or she reaches out for the right decision and the rest of the organization subsequently breathes a sigh of relief – this action is brought about by the courage to recognize the prevailing sense of what truly is, beyond ego-bound attempts to confuse the issue.
The word courage has its root in the old French word corage, associated with the modern French word for heart – coeur. Courage is heartfelt. It stems from deep within, from the real self.
True leadership is heartfelt; otherwise it is mere management.
The deepest form of leadership is the ability to stand up to the greatest of crises, reach down to one’s real self in terms of naked courage, and communicate with heartfelt eloquence a solution that others can understand instantly and embrace collectively. But such awareness does not have to be postponed until such crises test the leader; it can exist from day to day if the leader and the organization choose to value it as a working priority.
All humans are complex and so are all leaders. There is no pure essence of awareness that isn’t met by complex factors teasing its saintly values. The finest quality of awareness of relationships, when it does prevail, is what remains after all human complexities fall away to allow the true self to shine through at critical moments. By reaching down to the real self, a leader can simultaneously reach across to the collective awareness in the audience being addressed. It’s as if the sense of uniqueness, though real for each individual, is at the same time a myth. In other words, we’re not that different from one another in our deepest fears and concerns. The quality of awareness – that all feel through the eloquence of the leader’s sharing his or her true self, in that moment – transcends any differences.
Another way of putting it: the most unique and unutterable aloneness we can feel is in itself a universal experience. The greatest leaders have the courage to bridge that universal quality. Remember FDR’s historic statement, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” With that simple statement, he reached all those who heard his words at the core of their inner being. This is the most powerful stance for mastering emotional communication in any business organization in order to bring out the most productive potential in individuals comprising the workforce. Whether it is laughter in the hallway or tension in the boardroom, a true leader masters troubling emotions and creates an opportunity for greater success at every level of the organization.
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