Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, celebrating the birth of one of the United States most important and revered leaders. Along with other great leaders in history, Dr. King believed in empowering people to bring about change through nonviolent action, and he lived his life in a way that embodied nonviolence.
Did you know that Dr. King is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor, and the only non-president memorialized on the Great Mall in Washington DC? And while we remember his deeds through these legacies, it’s important to live our own live in tribute to this great leader by becoming peaceful leaders ourselves.
Leading Through Action
The best leaders are action-takers. When we lead through action, we set a positive example for others and inspire them to similarly take action. In this way, we avoid one of the worst traits that any leader can possess: hypocrisy.
Being a leader comes with responsibility. Passing off tasks simply because you don’t feel like doing them, does not a great leader make.
Leading through action also means being decisive. It means being able to quickly make a decision and be willing to commit to that action.
Many lesser leaders make the mistake of deferring or avoiding decision-making. Their fear is that they’ll make the wrong decision and thus lose the respect of others.
However, being indecisive is worse than making an unwise or incorrect decision. Being indecisive makes you seem weak. And while taking action can result in a negative outcome, delaying a decision will only ever have negative consequences.
Conversely, it’s nearly always inspiring to see someone who makes quick decisions and doesn’t doubt themselves. Decisiveness also builds confidence in others.
How is decisiveness a mark of courage?
Simply, it means that you’re willing to accept the responsibility that comes with the role of being a leader. Being a leader doesn’t mean telling others what to do and it certainly doesn’t mean getting to take all the credit.
Being a leader means taking responsibility. It means making decisions and being willing to deal with the consequences. It’s only when we don’t want to look bad that we avoid making decisions… and that is ultimately a mark of cowardice.
Finally, being a courageous leader means that you take your lumps when things do go sour. If you make a mistake, it’s important to not only own up to it, but also stay calm and collected when it becomes public.
Likewise, it’s crucial to remain calm in a crisis. That means setting a good example when things seem to be going wrong. Staying calm allows you to be able to address the issue in the best possible way.
Finding your Courage
Where does all this courage and stoicism come from? How can you acquire it if you don’t possess it naturally?
Does it mean trying to act tough?
Not at all.
Being a truly great leader comes from having the right priorities. It means forgetting yourself and, instead, focussing on the greater good. When you do that, it’s easy to be a courageous leader.