Editor’s Note: This post was submitted in response to Ms. JD’s She Leads essay prompt: “One Essential Trait of a Leader is …” Ms. JD: She Leads will take place October 5, 2012 in Washington, DC and will feature keynote speeches from Marne Levine, the VP of Global Public Policy at Facebook and the DQs. To learn more about Ms. JD: She Leads and to register, click here.
“Believe in yourself. You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962)
According to Aristotle, courage is the first virtue because it makes all other virtues possible. Leadership requires courage because a leader must step up to the plate and take initiative. Leaders must have the courage to make decisions even if they are unpopular. When an individual is in a leadership position, she must have the courage to believe in the competence of others and let go of the need to control. It takes courage to let others take part in the outcome of a project. A leader must also have the courage to talk about difficult issues and give feedback.
What is comforting to know is that courage is a learned skill. I know this because as a youth, I was always frightened of public speaking. How did I learn to overcome this fear? I became a public speaker, broadcast journalist, and a law student. I was able to take control of my fear of public speaking and turn it into a keenly honed skill. The first time I gave a keynote speech at a conference, I was literally frozen with fear. I tried to stand up to take the podium, and could not move. After a few attempts, I stood up, gave my speech, and received a standing ovation. I took control of my fear, instead of letting it control me. There is nothing wrong with feeling fear, but what is wrong is letting the fear stop you. You must do what you fear. When you do what you fear and exhibit courage, you get more done and feel more fulfilled in the process.
Here is a list of ten things you can do as a leader to show and develop courage:
1. Stand up for what is right even if your opinion is unpopular.
2. Keep quiet and let others speak even if you think they are wrong.
3. Delegate with confidence.
4. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
5. Take responsibility for your actions.
6. Maintain your integrity even when temptation abounds.
7. Ask what you can give, rather than what you can get.
8. Give credit where credit is due.
9. Be kind when giving feedback.
10. Ask. Don’t tell.
Farrah Champagne is a 2L at American University Washington College of Law. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she majored in Broadcast Journalism. Before going to law school, she worked as a television and radio reporter in Maryland and DC. In her spare time, she enjoys meditating, cooking, and reading.