March,1 Thursday 2007

Conversations About Courage (1/3)
Foremost business experts share their ideas about this key leadership asset

What is courage?

What we label courage is a strong emotional commitment---and the key word is emotional---to some ideas. Those ideas could be called a vision for where we're trying to drive the enterprise. They could be called values for what we think is important in life. They could be called principles of what is right and wrong. When people don't just have an intellectual sense that these are logically good, but are deeply committed them, they're developing courage. When you run up against barriers that keep you from those ideals, the stronger your commitment, the more likely you are to take action consistent with those ideals, even if it is against your short-term best interests. Other people will look at that and say, "Wow, that's courageous."

 The greater the barriers, the more there will be times for courageous acts. And the people who go down in history as great leaders always meet these tests.
---John Kotter, Professor, Harvard Business School

How do you inspire others to show courage?

You have to make them [comfortable] with the notion that if they stick* their neck out, they're not going to be shot. Everybody talks about what a great leader [Abraham] Lincoln was, but no one wants to die. But you can use Lincoln's story in the right way to get people to do what seems illogical, to stick their necks out as much as he did.
---John Kotter

How do you decide what's bold and daring versus just stupid and reckless?

There's no such thing as a safe risk. That's an oxymoron*. All courage is a risk. None of it is safe. The only way to decide is through [hindsight*].
---Warren Bennis, Distinguished professor of business, University of Southern California

Vocabulary Focus

stick one's neck out (exp)--- to take a risk

Specialized Terms

oxymoron (n)--- 修辞学上的矛盾修饰法 two words used together which have, or seem to have, opposite meanings

hindsight (n)--- 后见之明 the ability to understand an event or situation only after it has happened

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