The Call for Courage

Abundance Accountability Respect


Story: The following is from a Washington Post article on Aug.16, “In a published defense of former CIA chief John Brennan, a retired Navy admiral who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden has asked President Donald Trump to revoke his security clearance, too. Adm. William McRaven made the request in a letter to Trump, published Thursday in The Washington Post, one day after the president canceled Brennan’s security clearance.” Definition of courage according to Merrimack-Webster: Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

I was recently asked by Chris Rainey and the hosts of a great podcast, “HR Leaders,” what question I wanted to leave with their very substantial listening community of 500,000 plus worldwide, and it centered around how to develop more COURAGE in the workplace. I think, more than ever, each of us needs to ask ourselves how activated our “courage button” is. I believe engaging personal COURAGE is fundamental to our individual freedom, respect and moral autonomy that makes living most rewarding. Admiral McRaven, one of the most highly respected “warriors” in the world, has embraced courage as part of his reason for existence as a soldier. Still, it took considerable courage, way beyond the more obvious dangers of a literal battleground, for McRaven to speak out. He knows Trump and others will punch back in some way. It would have been much “easier” for McRaven to be quiet. He spoke up.

Key Point: This blog is about leadership and culture, not politics. I will not weigh in on the issue of security clearances relative to former intelligence officers of the U.S. government. However, I fully intend to identify situations that are signs of serious danger to all of us. And that is when we find ourselves in positions where we think it is better to keep our mouths shut, head down, and stay clear of getting involved in something we know or genuinely believe is wrong. That’s when very bad things happen in personal lives, organizations and eventually the larger community. When we perceive there is too much to lose for confronting an issue, it is likely a signal that we must act, and speak out. Perhaps the reason most of us get to practice having to navigate the playground bully as children, is to prepare us for those more substantial times later in life. Courage doesn’t mean we are always “right,” nor does it give permission to be disrespectful, or make it all about winning. It is the application of the Webster definition above: To venture forward knowing full-well we will have to withstand danger, fear or difficulty.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Be aware of signals in your work environment like the following comments /thoughts, “just keep your head down and shut up.” “Don’t raise that issue, it’s a career limiting move.” “We’ve always done it that way, so don’t rock the boat…” “Watch out for taking on ____, he/she will get you fired or make your life hell”. Those are often calls for personal courage. (By the way, courage and reckless/dumb aren’t related. Understand and be prepared to live with the consequences of courageous action). The outcome may have considerable personal pain attached to it.
  2. The very best leaders and team members seek out full debate, transparency and celebrate constructive disagreement. It is the only way to establish trust and ultimately find the best paths to take for the advancement of the greater good. How courageous are you as a leader and teammate?

More Courage in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: I love this true but challenging message. I could risk sounding a little too dark here, but remember that appeasement just means you’ll be the last to fall. A lack of courage leads to your neighbors turning a blind eye when they take you. (Dramatic? Maybe. But pick up a history book. Courage equals freedom).

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis