Cowardice, courage and finding your lion’s roar

Cowardice, courage and finding your lion’s roar

I am on a break this week and so in a deep dive into the archives here is one of my favourite blogs from 2008…

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. — Teddy Roosevelt from a speech given in Paris at the Sorbonne in 1910 (Read the full speech)

The idea of courage in business and in life has been on my mind a lot lately. It is something that we don’t talk or hear much about and when we do, the context is often as personal “acts of heroism”.

But what about when courage isn’t “heroic”; when it is quieter, when it is just part of how we go about the everyday?

Whether we are in the executive suite, in the boardroom, front office or back office, we make decisions everyday. And too often we decide that standing up for something or someone would carry too high a cost. So we file away our intentions and avert our eyes. Perhaps it is time, as Teddy Roosevelt eloquently states above, to get “in the arena” and fight the fights of our conscience and convictions.

The true cost of not taking a stand accumulates with each person, until entire organisations stand by and try not to think about what is being done in their names, or become the critics who point out how things could be done better, while standing on the sidelines.

I’m not going to list a whole raft of examples where courage was sidelined for the sake of expediency and agreement. It shows up in everything from the lock-step bowing to pressure by publicly traded companies to deliver short-term quarterly “results”, to the back-room deals that strangle fair competition, and general rubber stamp approaches to decision-making.

I am instead going to simply ask each of you who read this blog to give a little thought to the meaning of courage in your work and life. It doesn’t have to be heroic, but it does require that we not avert our eyes.

For those interested in exploring the idea of courage further, here are some resources to get you started:

See you next week when I’ll be back with “The most unpopular idea in the world.”

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at

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