Achieve Breakthrough Leadership Performance by Cultivating Courage

Achieve Breakthrough Leadership Performance by Cultivating Courage

One of my biggest aha moments came with the discovery that many of my leadership development and spiritual formation lessons were rooted in my childhood. I grew up in an eight-hundred-square-foot homestead shack on an isolated cattle ranch in northwestern North Dakota. I had the privilege of being an eyewitness and an active participant to character-building challenges on a daily basis. Using an outhouse until I was thirteen, no running water in the house… North Dakota conditions were tough for a young girl, don’t you think?

My parents had challenges of their own, and yet, they had an unshakable determination that they could make it. They were committed to pursue their vision and goals despite physical hardships, financial setbacks, and multiple roadblocks. They personified courage. Above all, they instilled those values in their children through their incredible leadership skills.

Moving back to the TTT Ranch was more than a “going-back-to-my-roots” experience. It was a spiritual homecoming.

My affinity for Cowboy Culture runs deep! I resonate with the Code of the West, and included the ten principles listed by the Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership in Millennials Matter. Although this code was enacted more than a century ago, the principles apply to all of us. Why? Because they were founded on ancient virtues. Yes, I know virtue seems like an outdated word, but it’s time to revive it. 

Today, we are facing different challenges, but the ferocity is no less. In my work, I hear about the toxic impact of the Fear Pandemic every day. I see the destruction caused by anxiety and depression in many promising emerging leaders.

That’s why I wrote the Courageous Leadership Series.  To ensure that future leaders will use their leadership influence to lead with character and courage. We need to fight the Fear Pandemic and develop their Can-Do Sisu spirit.

Your leadership matters, NOW, more than ever.

While re-reading some works by James P. Owen, I captured this quote: 

Why we Need to Cultivate Courage

Despite the comforts and conveniences that buffer us, our daily lives are still fraught with insecurity. We may not even be aware of the degree to which our actions are ruled by fear ~ fear of losing our jobs, of being judged by others, of harm that might befall us or our loved ones.

The fears can be paralyzing, keeping us from growing in experience and wisdom. They can also be corrosive. When we take the easy way out, rather than facing the challenge or making the tough choice, we only become weaker. This is true of societies as well as individuals.

Even if we are never called upon to brave a tsunami or rescue someone from a burning building, we all encounter situations that demand courage.

Being a single parent, dealing with serious illness, telling difficult truths ~ all of us face these kinds of tests sooner or later. The more we learn to draw and rely upon our inner strength, the more our courage grows.

Leadership Development Courage Grows From…

  • Acknowledging fear and confronting it head-on
  • Accepting risk, change, and failure as part of life
  • Persevering despite the odds
  • Standing up for what we believe
  • Enduring hardship and adversity without complaint
  • Being willing to make the tough choices

Developing a courageous character core is as important as developing our physical core. A strong physical core leads to better balance and stability. Similarly, leaders who are healthy on the inside and operate with both high character and high courage, have a positive leadership influence on those they lead. These are the leaders who take responsible risks and communicate authentically with their teams. 

This excerpt from Millennials Matter highlights the importance of our leadership strategy and responsibility to cultivate this trait in the up-and-coming leaders we coach and mentor.

Why is Cultivating a Character Core Important for your Next Gen Leader?

I’m in awe of the character and grit of the hard-working people who first settled in my home state, North Dakota. The internal strength of character that helped them weather the ferociousness of the Northern Plains runs deep in our culture. There are many things we can glean from these heroes as we navigate the challenges of the 21st Century. 

This question brings me to the rarely recognized ancient wisdom found in the Cardinal Virtues of practical, everyday living. These Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Courage were derived primarily from Plato. Along with these, the Church has long held the view that there are three core Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity, which have stood the test of time. 

Virtue seems like an outdated word, but it is time to revive it! We need to integrate virtues into our companies. Many shy away from this because they are hard to ask about and equally hard to measure. Recognizing the foundational value of virtues in wise leadership, some universities are becoming more intentional. The University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, recently launched a new MBA (Master of Business Administration) track called Virtuous Leadership, the University of Sioux Falls in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, builds virtues into their student wellness initiatives, and Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, integrates the study of virtues in their Transformational Leadership degree program. 

Growing up on the TTT Ranch in North Dakota, I resonate with the Code of the West, these ten principles by The Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership. 

1    Live each day with courage.

2    Take pride in your work.

3    Always finish what you start.

4    Do what has to be done.

5    Be tough, but fair.

6    When you make a promise, keep it.

7    Ride for your brand.

8    Talk less and say more.

9    Remember that some things aren’t for sale.

10 Know where to draw the line.

So, how do we translate these ancient virtues and wisdom into modern day, non-cowboy, vernacular so that both we and our mentees “get it?” How might you help your Next Gen leader grasp these difficult ideas so they become usable in everyday life?

D.A.K.O.T.A. is a tool I use to help describe this translation process in the following chapters. Based on my appreciation for my North Dakota roots, I hope it is a helpful guide as you work with Millennial leaders to help develop a strong courageous core.







You can take the D.A.K.O.T.A. Survey yourself here

You can read all the articles in the Sisu Courage Series by clicking on the links below:

How do You Confront Fear to Strengthen Your Leadership Development?

Leadership Strategy Insights from Courageously Taking on Mount Kilimanjaro

A Courageous Character Keeps Your Leadership Development Journey on Track

Gratitude Builds Courage to Confidently Turn Scary Times into Leadership Development

How to Courageously Connect to Improve Your Leadership Performance

Need a speaker for your next podcast series?

Let’s discuss a tailor-made talk to meet your specific needs.

Virtual speaking event? No problem!

Check out my Speaker page HERE.

To schedule, a call contact me at

No Comments

Post A Comment