The I's Have It!

Some time ago we wrote a piece called "The I's Have It!". We updated the article in 2020. In the update we added an "I" for Insight (self-awareness).

The four I's are:

  • Integrity
  • Intelligence
  • Intestinal Fortitude
  • Insight

This reflection is about the third characteristic, Intestinal Fortitude, or courage.

This post is based on an email from the International Leadership Association (ILA) which issued a call for nominations for "The Larraine R. Matusak Courageous Leadership Award."

The Courageous Leadership Award

The  Larraine R. Matusak Courageous Leadership Award was created in 2007 and  is given biannually to recognize bold and courageous leadership in the  face of social difficulty and injustice. In the words of Dr. Matusak . . . . . .

The  purpose of this award is to recognize and reward those individuals who boldly take a risk to stand up for what is right and just; who work for  the common good; who are willing to take an unpopular stand even if doing so may jeopardize their jobs, cast them in an unpopular light or even cause them to lose friends. They are willing to act authentically and speak up when silence would mean colluding with the problem, and they boldly take actions that tangibly improve the human condition.

Courageous Leadership is defined as the ability and passion to attain  positive results by encouraging others and by working with and through  others to achieve a common good. True leaders are courageous people. They are not afraid to take a risk and they don’t waste much time  worrying about what other people might think of them; they are more concerned about doing what is right and effective. They make every  attempt to weave a shared vision, to align others toward a goal, and  then with enthusiasm, energy, and commitment they are willing to walk near the edge and even do things that raise the eyebrows of those around them in order to achieve a positive goal that effects the common good…. to do what is right! Their risk taking is creative, reinforced by sound  judgment, common sense and a profound sense of responsibility, honesty, and truth.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must look fear in the  face and do the thing you think you cannot do.” This Courageous Leadership Award is a call to courage that requires a belief in something much larger than the individual; the type of courage fueled by  a passion for the common good and a commitment to principles greater than self-interest; the kind of courage that once exhibited galvanizes others.          

Questions for the Potentially Courageous

Would you even consider doing what is required to be eligible for this award?

If so, for what reason or cause?

What is the risk if you did what was required to be nominated?

What is the potential downside to you, your reputation, or your family?

What is the reward or payoff? Who benefits?

Who are some examples in your life or your experience who were such people?

What's Involved?

Making decisions related to taking courageous risks involves at least three things:

  1. It takes certain kinds of motivation (e.g., the Inventory for Work Attitude and Motivation (iWAM) scales for Initiation, Goal Orientation, Breadth, Shared Responsibility, Change, Affiliation, Compliance, etc., come to mind).

  2. It takes a certain set of values or principles to behave consistently with the criteria. This may fall under the heading of moral development (Piaget, Kohlberg, Perry et al.). The criteria strongly suggest that a set of principles are part of what drives the behavior.

  3. Finally, there is a knowledge and intellectual skill set required. One has to be smart. We're not talking about IQ or Mensa smart, but someone with good reasoning powers that includes being able to integrate data, values, context, and outcomes when formulating and executing strategy. And, while perfection in such matters may be desirable, it is probably not possible. In lieu of perfection, one has to be willing to make and be able to endure "intelligent mistakes."

It would be interesting to profile ILA's Matusak Courageous Leadership Award winners to see how they reflect theses criteria.