Reflections On: When Courage Was the Essence of Leadership—Lessons from History by Emilio Iodice

by Aug 5, 2022

As poetic as it is prescient, Emilio Iodice will soon debut the next edition of his book, When Courage Was the Essence of Leadership—Lessons from History. Iodice is the director emeritus and professor of leadership at Loyola University Chicago. He reflects on leadership by stating:

It is a voyage. Sometimes the journey is in the dark, through a mist or a storm. The trip is guided by a compass, the sun, the stars, the light of the moon, matched by instinct and experience. It is called leadership. In the worst of times leaders struggle to navigate, survive and reach their port of call. In the best of times they glide smoothly across the horizon to success. The wind in their sails that moves them forward fearlessly, relentlessly and without trepidation is called courage.

He goes on to say:

There was a time when the courage to lead was commonplace. It was found in many quarters. Politicians, small and large captains of commerce and industry, soldiers and sailors, men and women of the cloth and ordinary citizens expressed themselves with bravery, integrity, character and good example. They did so above the call of duty. Some had choices, others did not. Yet in each instance they knew that to lead, to achieve, to succeed they had to be fearless. They were our models. They were our heroes and heroines. It is their example that we need now more than ever.

As an executive leader—like many scholars of this deep and rich topic called ‘leadership’—you’ll appreciate this point that Emilio made:

For decades, experts have searched for the formula that produces great leadership. The list is long and intricate. It varies from one setting to another. There is one trait that cuts across all the elements. It is the fundamental quality that unites them . . . courage. It is the essence of leadership. History is filled with examples of this unique attribute being the driving force of leaders. Courage is not only a special quality. It is a virtue because to exhibit it requires an act of morality.

Emilio described the three sections of the book: 

1. Political Courage is about choices, integrity, honesty and character that affect principles, values, the public good and the conflict between what is best for country vs. what is best for the politician.

2. Personal and Professional Courage deals with our daily lives and our careers and our ability to confront pain, agony, intimidation, survival and the willingness to do the right thing in the face of opposition, scandal, shame, personal loss and disappointment.

3. Spiritual Courage concerns our place in the universe, believing in a higher being and understanding that we are on a mission to improve the lot of mankind and the world. It is living beyond ourselves and for others. From the President to the longshoreman to the fisherman, the peddler to the baseball player, to the nun and the holy man in India, each needed courage to lead themselves and others and each led with conviction and bravery. Their words, their lives are as meaningful to us today as they were years, decades or centuries ago. They are our models and our heroes and heroines to look up to and emulate.

He further offered that leaders will find themselves at the intersection of fear and courage, because that is the social, political, and world circumstance we find ourselves in today:

Each day we face moments where we may need to be heroic. It could be to defend a colleague or to tell the truth, or save a life, even if the consequences could be severe. The obstacle to courage is fear. We live in an age of fear. In the public and private sectors, in our everyday lives, we are gripped by insecurity and anxiety. In this work, we tell about people who overcame fear. It is about the great and the unknown, the rich and famous and the forgotten men and women who truly made a difference in our world. This is a must-read for every leader. The book is available through Amazon. Enjoy the journey and be a better and more courageous leader for it.

Dr. Kim Villeneuve is the co-founder of bluSPARC™ a learning and development company with coaching at its core. Drawing on extensive experience in executive search, coaching for succession, Kim specializes in working with entrepreneurs, business executives, and those enhancing their capacity for complex leadership. Kim holds a doctorate in Human and Organizational Learning from The George Washington University. Kim can be contacted at contact@blusparc.com.

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