Taking a stand, for anything, requires courage. Courage is knowing what’s right and then acting on it. Theodore Roosevelt said, “In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”

During the Nazi occupation of his country in WWII, King Christian X of Denmark noticed a Nazi flag flying over a Danish public building. He immediately called the German commandant, demanding that the flag be taken down at once. The commandant refused. “Then a soldier will go and take it down,” said the king.

“He will be shot,” threatened the commandant. “I think not,” replied the king, “for I shall be the soldier.” Within minutes the flag was taken down. The king was courageous, took his stand, and prevailed.

Inspiring leaders don’t settle for what conditions are forced upon them. They don’t just buy into what everybody else is saying, and they don’t follow the beaten path. Inspiring leaders are constantly creating their own conditions for success by blazing new trails.

Courage is doing something you are afraid to do. The word courage is derived from the Medieval Old French term corage, meaning “heart and spirit.”

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, applied this definition and took his stand when Starbucks wanted to move into a particular international market. Schultz was discouraged by every analysis he read, and spent over a half a million dollars on consultants, who all told him not to go. Furthermore, all of his direct reports were against the move.

On the advice of one of his mentors, Warren Bennis, he met again with his team, listened to their concerns, answered their questions and asked for their support. In the end, he had mobilized the support of his management team, and as Bennis had encouraged, he went with his heart, with what he thought was right and entered the market in question. Schultz stood his ground and, ultimately, was able to score another successful expansion of Starbucks into the international marketplace.

Rarely are leadership decisions black or white, so inspiring leaders take in available data, then muster the courage to make the best decision in that moment for the right reasons.

Action Questions:

  1. When did you demonstrate leadership courage in the past?
  2. What about that situation enabled you to act with courage?
  3. How can you apply your past experience to help you courageously address a current challenge?

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