The power of conviction

Let’s talk about moral courage: standing firm in your beliefs, or what I call the willingness “to bet your stars or bars” for an idea, a conviction, or an action, normally that involves others, especially those we lead. We speak of the “courage of convictions,” which means that moral courage requires conviction, a sense of right and wrong, ideals, and most important, the willingness to sacrifice one’s personal reputation for a greater good. But as we used to say in the Army, that briefs well, but doing it is really hard.

So how do we develop moral courage in ourselves and those we lead or love? Abraham Lincoln said:

“You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.”

Said in a positive manner, initiative and independent decision-making is important to developing and exercising moral courage. I would add trust, judgement, and responsibility as equally important, as is delegation if you are trying to develop moral courage in others.

I think moral courage can be developed by exercising all of the above:

  • Recognize in most cases there is a right and a wrong way, time, and place for most decisions – call it judgement
  • Trust yourself or the person you are working with to apply that judgement when necessary, independent of someone else demanding you or they do so
  • In the case of developing others, always ensure they know you “have their back”; ie, your support
  • Always, always, weigh the impact of your or other’s decisions on families, fellow workers, or troops – they too will be directly impacted by your decisions
  • Probably most important, REALIZE when you or others are making a decision involving moral courage, and respect it. You may disagree with the decisions of others just as others disagree with your own, but you can still respect the conviction displayed. This is the ultimate reward for acts of moral courage: respect.

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