False Courage

by John Spence on · 4 comments

As I look around the world today I see a lot of very courageous leaders. They have the courage of their convictions. They have the courage to stand their ground in support of their positions, even in the face of great resistance. They have the courage to take enormous risks, with truly global ramifications, on behalf of their beliefs. Yes, it takes an enormous amount of courage to do these sorts of things, but I would argue it is actually a weaker version of courage…a false courage.

Today, more than any other time in my life, I am witnessing leaders who strive to act "courageously" by exhibiting firmness, resolve, and near total inflexibility in their unrelenting drive to establish their cause, their opinion and their agenda… as the right agenda. Frankly, it actually takes very little courage to say: "I am right and you are wrong." It gives people a strong sense of comfort to know with certainty that their point of view is correct, and that anyone who does not agree with them is in error. But the stark truth is that it does not take courage to refuse to yield your point of view in the face of massive opposition… it takes the greatest courage to admit that you might be wrong.

Although I am a great fan of heroic courage and know that in many situations that is exactly what is called for, what I believe we need from our leaders right now is the ability to show an even more powerful level of courage… the courage of vulnerability. The courage to say, "I don't know," or "I need help" or even "you may be right, I might have made a bad assumption on and be wrong about this."

All of us have been in situation where we have vehemently insisted that we were absolutely right, only to realize about halfway through the argument that we were probably – or even definitely – wrong. But what do you do? Do you throw up your hands and immediately admit that you were completely off-base, mistaken, misinformed…wrong? Hell no, you dig in your heals and fight five times harder to prove beyond a shadow of ANY doubt that you are unequivocally right!!! Even though you know you're wrong.

Well, I think we have an awful lot of that going on in our country right now (and the rest of the world too). In the political system, the financial system, the education system, the health care system, and even in the free enterprise system itself. Let's face it, there are a multitude of things that are very broken right now – there is absolutely no arguing about that. However, it seems to me that a lot of people, some very influential and important people, have staked out positions that are verging on completely irrational and yet refuse to show any "weakness" (or vulnerability) in admitting that they might be even slightly mistaken.

What I am suggesting in this post is that our Nation's leaders (all leaders) need to show more of the incredibly challenging "courage" of expressing real vulnerability. Admit when you don't know the answer and ask for help. Admit that you're not Superman or Superwoman and you can't do it all. Admit that you are confused, in over your heard, overwhelmed or that you might even be… wrong. Admit that the most important thing right now is to think long-term, work together, ask for help and fix things – not to be "courageous" in the defense of your position and proving that you are "right". Throw the positions out the window and work for progress. Dump the false pride and get to work on solutions. Our country needs some real leadership right now, some truly courageous leadership, courageous enough to put aside petty fighting, political posturing, rigid ideology and finger-pointing…and tackle some of the biggest problems our country has ever faced.

***Oh, by the way, I would like to state clearly for the record: I do not have the solution to these problems! I don't know what to do to fix them! I am very, very, very confused!!! I need a lot of help – we all do – we all need as much help as we can give each other and we can get from each other. Things are tough right now – we could all use a few more friends and supporters. I have no idea how to get us out of this mess – but I absolutely want to do everything I humanly can to be a part of the solution – and I hope you do too!!

by John Spence

John Spence is the author of "Awesomely Simple - Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action." He is an award-winning professional speaker and corporate trainer, and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce Sallan (@BruceSallan) June 7, 2012 at 9:52 am

I assume you mean NONE of our political leaders?
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Jon Mertz June 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I agree, John, that we need to drop much of the pretentiousness and begin to understand what we know, what we don’t know, and how we can get from Point A to Point B. False courage is just giving us meandering ways. It is time to work together to solve real problems, courageously together! Great post! Jon
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Jennifer Olney June 9, 2012 at 8:29 am

The best admit when they cannot solve it on their own and they do not have the answers. There is no shame is asking for help. We need to change the mindset that real courage is going alone….there is more strength shown when you admit it and move forward to find a solution rather than getting into the details of arguing for the sake of your own point. Thank you for this post. Great topic.


CLJ June 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm

So true. And the ever-widening disenchantment with politicians and mainstream media is due to the fact that people can see this going on there.
A new paradigm is arising alongside the one we inherited; that old one is of course unwilling to go quietly.


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