The Courage-Giving Leader

by Andy Wood on January 18, 2012

in Executing Your Plan, Five LV Laws, Hoarders, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, Pleasers, Principle of Abundance

Quick Question:  What do the people you lead (and you do lead somebody) do when trouble shows up?

Quick Answer:  They do what you lead them to do.

More Thoughtful Question:  Do the people you lead (and you do lead somebody) run for the hills or cower in fear at the first sign of trouble, or do they courageously rise up to the challenge?

More Thoughtful Answer:  They do what you lead them to do.  Not necessarily what tell them to do or manipulate them to do.  What you lead them to do.

That reminds me of a story.  True story.  About a guy named Eli.  Now Eli was a soldier, and being a soldier, he had a Commander-in-Chief.  And the reason Eli’s Commander-in-Chief was the Commander-in-Chief was because he was the biggest dude in all the land.

You know what the problem is with making the biggest dude in all the land the Commander-in-Chief?  Sooner or later he’s gonna run into a bigger dude.  And that’s what happened.  Eli’s boss went quaking in his boots to the rear of the line because he was staring down the barrel of an overwhelming challenge.

So you know what Eli did?  He quaked in his boots too.  I’m talking, Give up now.  Better fled than dead.

One day later – one day! – that’s Eli with his shield up, his sword drawn, charging headlong into the enemy’s camp and taking no prisoners.  What made the difference?

Eli found somebody else to follow.  A leader who gave him the courage to rise to his place of service and calling.  And it happened to be his baby brother, David.

Eli is the nickname I gave to Eliab, the oldest son of Jesse.  He fought in Saul’s army, and in the face of Goliath’s giant challenge, he had no more courage than his trembling, manipulating king.

What fascinates me about the back story to David’s victory over the giant is the effect it had over the armies of Israel.  Because David was a man of courage himself, he gave courage to those he influenced – and he wasn’t even the appointed leader (just the anointed one).

My favorite definition of courage says that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but action in the presence of fear or overwhelming challenges.  Some leaders, like Saul, have a way of robbing their followers of the ability to take action.  We refer to those people whose courage has been stolen as dis-couraged.  And I’ll guarantee you that you know somebody who has become discouraged by the disrepute, disrespect, disappointment, or disregard of a leader.  That may even be you.

That doesn’t have to define you or your influence.  You can be a courage-giving leader.  Building on the elements of C.O.U.R.A.G.E. from the last post, you can offer the people in your realm of influence the will to take massive action in the face of their opportunities and threats.

What is courage-giving leadership made of?

1.  Company: Offer them the “ministry of presence.”

David showed up and bowed up, and he wasn’t taking “get out of here” for an answer – even from his big brother Eli.  It’s interesting that before David faced the giant, he made the rounds among the soldiers in God’s army.  All the while, Saul was holed up somewhere, trying to figure his way out of this mess.

Something transforming happens when leaders arrive on the scene in the face of their constituents’ tough times.  And that’s far more important than having all the answers.  Just be there.

2.  Observation: Offer them a difference in perspective.

Courage-giving leaders help followers observe their “giants” or “mountains” from God’s perspective.  While Eli and his pals were squawking, “Did you see how big he is?” David was saying, “Do you see how stupid he is to defy the armies of the living God?

Look.  David didn’t deny that the Philistine was huge and scary or that the threat was real.  Courage-giving leaders don’t spend their time trying to convince their “army” to live in denial or Fantasyland.  But they have a way of helping them look down on their giants, not just up at them.

3.  Understanding: Raise their sights and call out their higher purposes.

Fear and discouragement are often the result of narrow, limited vision.  Sometimes people are so close to the action that they lose sight of the big picture.  The courage-giving leader responds by calling them out to big-picture thinking and purposeful activity.  It’s the courage-giving leader who reminds constituents, like David did, that they are working for something much larger than their narrow self-interests.  I love those King James words here, “Is there not a cause?”

4.  Reflection: Remind them of past successes.

David kept a mental encouragement file of past victories, and they weren’t too shabby – manhandling a lion and a bear and keeping lambs alive in the process.  That’s a nice resume builder.  But even greater, he reminded Eli and his friends that they were soldiers in God’s army and the Lord was still undefeated.  Courage-giving leaders do that, and you can be one.  Keep reminding your comrades of their previous successes.

5.  Assurance: Give them confidence to withstand criticism.

We learn to let words discourage us at a very early age.  The callous, brutal honesty on the playground and the routine clique management of adolescence can wither away anybody’s joy or confidence.  And that’s when we begin to discover that the encouragement of our parents is a bit suspect.  After all, they’re our parents!  They’re supposed to say encouraging things.  Unless, of course, the parent is the critic.

Anyway, that’s where the courage-giving leader comes in, speaking words of assurance.  Not cheesy slogans. Not platitudes, head pats or back slaps.  Instead, they offer calm, confident assurance to team members and peers that they are moving in the right direction.

6.  Goals: Keep the target clear and visible.

Courage always has a goal – tangible or intangible – in mind.  Courage-giving leaders help their teams establish or re-establish goals, however simple.  And then they move toward it.  As David was warming up his slingshot, he was quite clear what his goals were – to feed the birds with the dead body of that Philistine and to convince the cowering crowd behind him that the battle was the Lord’s.

That’s what courage-giving leaders do.  They clearly, specifically state their intentions, then go about finishing the job.  In the process, they persuade an army that their direction is worth following.

7.  Expectation: Help them see a desired outcome as normal.

Courage involves certain confident expectations.  It responds to challenges with unhesitating faith and uncompromising commitment. Courage-giving leaders have a bias for action, not negotiating settlements and guarantees.  And they do so because they expect a positive outcome.

People who study David’s victory over Goliath love to speculate over why he picked up five stones when all he needed was one.  Maybe he was just being prepared.  Or maybe it was a good day for killing giants (Goliath did have four brothers).  Whatever the reason, I think David fully expected to use them successfully.  What are you doing to help your team believe?


One last thought.  Courage-giving leaders may or may not give great pep talks.  David’s was pretty awesome.  But they are always willing to go first in facing the unstoppable giants.  The simplest way to be a courage-giving leader is to have some courage of your own to share.

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