The battlefield may be a crucible for all manner of success in life. Survive, and you’re likely agile, decisive, quick thinking and – above all, courageous. And that courage manifests itself not just in a firefight.
Throughout the ages, people have searched for the precise alchemy of ingredients that constitute great leadership. In measured proportions, great leaders are said to demonstrate bold but reasoned judgment, spirited but calculated risk-taking and an assertive but reflective disposition. Complicating the matter are the expectations and needs of those being led. Followers want leaders who make decisions decisively but inclusively, interpret situations with rational and emotional intelligence and exude confidence and humility.
The list of characteristics that comprise great leadership is so long and contradictory, that the aspiring leader is left to ask, “Where on earth do I start?” Fortunately, there is a clear starting point. One leadership characteristic—or more accurately, virtue—informs and strengthens all others: Courage.
Aristotle called courage the first virtue, because it makes all of the other virtues possible. In addition to being the most important human virtue, it is the most important business virtue, as well. Think about it: Other important business concepts like leadership, innovation and sales wither in the absence of courage. Leadership takes making bold and often unpopular decisions. Leadership takes courage. Innovation involves creating ground-breaking but tradition-defying ideas. Innovation takes courage. Sales requires being repeatedly rejected before closing a deal. Sales takes courage. Take away courage, and sales, innovation and leadership lose their potency.
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