This month Global Warriors is making a small but significant shift – from focusing on developing conscious leaders to courageous ones. It’s by no means a case of one replacing the other – more a growing realisation among us that to actually create positive change in the world both are required: conscious awareness and courageous action.
Nelson Mandela famously said, “Action without vision is only passing time. Vision without action is merely daydreaming. But vision with action can change the world”. We agree with Nelson on this one.
In a business culture that seems to value productivity above all things we see plenty of examples of apparently bold, risk-taking action, but often the sense of any broader vision beyond endless profit and growth isn’t clear.
And vision alone is not – cannot be – enough. What marked out Mandela as a true leader was not just his capacity to see clearly the injustice of the world he inhabited, not just his ability to envision a different future, but his willingness to take direct action to fight that injustice and make his vision a reality. When it really counts awareness is a precursor to action – consciousness is a platform for courage.
Another quote that has inspired us is from a speech given by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1910. The speech was titled ‘Citizenship in a Republic’, but the passage that has passed into history has become known as ‘The Man in the Arena’:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails whilst daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”
The shift from Conscious to Courageous is about looking to your values, choosing your ‘arena’, and then stepping in with both feet.
June saw the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy landings. Among the various world leaders and dignitaries who gathered to pay their respects, the most powerful testimony has been from the people who were actually there – men in their 90’s recalling the horror of battle. They demonstrate to us that to be courageous is not to be fearless. Many of them spoke about the paralysing fear they felt as they approached the beaches in their landing crafts; having to shake it off and run into harm’s way as their friends fell around them. There was no bravado. They spoke with humility and emotion.
On May 15th there was a less well-recognised day of remembrance and respect. It was International Conscientious Objector Day – a day when those who have refused to participate in armed conflict on grounds of personal principle are honoured.
During the First World War men of service age who were seen in public in civilian clothing might be handed a white feather. This was a symbol of cowardice – to refuse to serve was seen as shameful in the eyes of many people.
Here is a very different portrait of courage: to stand by one’s convictions in the face of scorn, to hold fast against pressure from the majority. No less than those who charged into battle, we hold this as an example of courageous leadership – people who knew their values, and stepped into the arena, regardless of the judgement of others.
Our mission now at Global Warriors is to take inspiration from those who followed their consciences into battle, and those who accepted the white feather with pride. We want to encourage others to step up and take action on their principles, and to do the same ourselves.
This may mean making significant, even life-changing decisions – noticing that something doesn’t feel right and following the inner voice that says ‘do something’, rather than pushing it to one side and returning to business as usual.
It may also simply mean willingly stepping towards fear and discomfort on a daily basis – having the difficult conversations rather than putting them off for another day; making decisions based on our values rather than on what other people might think.
What is your arena? What is it that you are willing to take a stand for?
In what area of life do you suspect you might be enjoying the comfortable seat of the critic, rather than actually stepping in and taking action?
What do you intend to do about it?