The Leader You Are.. Courage as a Factor

Living in the shadow of yourself is an interesting place to be .

I don’t know about you but I live in my own world sometimes.  It isn’t that I am making up my own reality as some people do, but more that I feel comfortable with my conditions and that allows me at times to escape the challenges that I face.

I will give you an example.   Have you ever thought about what will happen when someone close to you gets sick or dies?  Most of us have been there in the situation where we are in the hospital with the person or at the funeral.   I am searching for words to describe the feeling but the best way I can describe it is surreal.  It feels like a dream that you are in at that moment and when you escape it, you can have normal again.  

In the story of our lives, we all deal with these emotionally charged and life altering situations.   I used the concept of illness or death to bring us to the extreme of this situation but there are scaled down situations that are similar in nature and have this effect on us.  If you are working and you find out that you are losing your job.  If you are dealing with someone who is abusive.  If you are stuck in a situation that you may have put yourself in but have awoken to this moment where you blink and realize “this is real, what am I going to do”?

Living in the shadow of yourself is dealing with the reality and feelings of your inner self or your true self as no one else but you would know as opposed to the outer self or the face we show to the world.

Clearly there are many discussions that we can have over the religious implications in this area of thought but my objective for this particular post is to talk about dealing with the challenges we face and finding the courage to do what we know we should.   It isn’t really about doing the right things per se but more about dealing with the reality of a situation as is and finding the strength and courage to plow through it.  It doesn’t take the biggest or strongest person to find his way over the hurdles in life.  It takes a person, any person the inner strength to envision a positive outcome and press for this vision even in the face of the darkest times.

Death is final, if we allow our worldly perspective to bind us to that conclusion.  Failure is imminent if we allow our situation to govern our behavior.  We are constantly faced with challenges that allow us to sink deeper into fear, if we allow it.

I was talking to Erin (my wife) the other day about leadership and how I have a bookshelf and tablet full of leadership books.   I have read them all and some of them twice.  I have watched people who were called leaders for years and have observed their behavior.   I have worked with military, defense and corporate leaders and what have I found?

We all share the same type of feelings and concerns regardless of position regarding business.  I could frame this another way.

Five days in the sun with Maslow


On the first day, you are happy and concerned with nothing more than realizing your greater purpose or value.  Where do you fit in and what difference in the world can you make?  How can you reach your full potential?  It is a fair question.  Once you have this level of security in terms of the basics, you can focus on these “other things.”  The sun is beating down but you have all you need food shelter even some company with your friend Maslow. Maybe you can do something or build something that can be shared with others, something for the greater good of mankind.  Even though security is an illusion, this perspective based on what you have lifts a weight or burden on the psyche that allows for some clarity of thought. It is time to shine!  

On the second day, you have less resources but still have enough to meet all your needs.  Achieving your full potential is great but what about that feeling of accomplishment?   Sweet sweet goals and objectives, that feeling of getting things done. Accomplishment in the sun is sweet but lonely, maybe it would be something if you had some others aside from “the Maz” to share your accomplishments with.  

On the third day, you have been creative and innovative and accomplished many things but only with your friend Maslow and he isn’t much fun to be around.   It would be much nicer to have your loved ones to share your accomplishments with.  How wonderful it is to share your love, your hopes and your dreams.   Some of  your loved ones and friends arrive to hang out.

Wouldn’t you be willing to even give some of your ultimate goals up to share your life with others.  The sun is getting hot on the third day and you have less than you had the past two days.  As a matter of fact, you are running low on water and the rain this night took your shelter out.    

On the fourth day, Maslow left… I am not sure why.. all of your friends and loved ones that you had over started bailing out as well.   Your water supply is pretty low and the shelter was damaged from the rain last night.  Suddenly, the things that were important yesterday aren’t so important today.  You are bound to be here in this place one more day.  This is starting to get uncomfortable.  

On the fifth day,  just absolutely exhausted, the sun is beating down on you and there is no water left, no food left and your shelter is destroyed.  This is unreal, in fact it is surreal, how did this happen? Why did this happen?  How could you have prevented this?  What is important? What is important to you?  The sun is now a fireball instead of a low hanging gift of art from the universe. It alone has stolen from you.  It conspired with mother nature to destroy everything you had and you stand alone under the blazing sky contemplating your next …. move.


Lucky for you and of course the rest of the world that this was just a short trip and that you can forget about all this madness as you head home from this horrible experience.  It is absolutely true that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a model is not being accurately reflected here but the point is consistent with his model.   The key question that looms on the outside of this story is with respect to leadership.   Where does leadership fit in and play a role?  Would a leader only stand tall on the first two or three days when there was comfort and all of your needs were met?

Title doesn’t dictate character.  Although, Randall from the movie “Clerks” told us otherwise.  There are variations of leaders and degrees of leadership.  We are wrapped around the idea that we are to be led and that this leadership carries some rank or status with it.  I have written many times before that we must lead from where we are.  We must lead as the situation requires.  We must follow as the situation requires.  Regardless, some will stand out from others and some will fall into the crowd but it takes courage to do what it takes and lead in any capacity where you can when the time comes.  

It takes courage to see a situation from the point of view of an active observer as opposed to being a participant and find the strength to see the possibilities related to the “big picture” as opposed to the image of the moment.   

Leadership isn’t a thing.  It isn’t something we can hold in our hands.  There is more to leadership than courage but if leadership is a multi legged beast, courage is one of its primary limbs.  

What do you think?