2013-09-27 / Chaplain's News

Moral courage and leadership

By Chaplain (Maj.) Raynard J. Churchwell
15th Regt. Signal Battalion

Samuel Langhorne Clemens better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and its sequel, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, the latter often called the great American novel. Samuel Clemens was once quoted as saying, “It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”

When we observe the meaning of morality, it is connected with goodness or badness of character or behavior. It is connected with something that arises from the conscience of humankind. Clemens may have been absolutely right that physical courage appears to be a common thing in the world today. We see it in action on TV; we read about physical courage in our newspapers; we flood our minds with it from the internet; and we hear about many acts of physical courage from our friends, neighbors and associates.

We see daring rescues of people out of burning buildings, raging floods, great mountain rescues and great courage on the battlefield and all of these things are great. However, as Clemens points out so very candidly, there is something so very different in contrast to physical courage in comparison to moral courage and leadership. Moral courage has more to do with internal strength of character than the willingness to face trauma such as war or a disaster. Moral courage is strength of character, which is the foundation upon which moral decisions and plans of actions are made.

In order to be a successful leader not only must you have physical courage, but you must also have moral courage. Field Manual 22-100 paragraphs 1-6 states, “Leadership is influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.” There is a great difference between leadership and moral leadership, and it can be summed up in one word – integrity.

Having moral courage will enable leaders to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction and motivation to others. Practicing moral courage for leaders involves three very important things: choices, accountability and courage.

In summary, if a leader is able to process these three key areas in their life, it is no doubt that this will enable them to be a great leader. Life is filled with choices each and every day, and one bad choice can last a lifetime. Accountability is important for self and to help others. Also, it takes courage to stand up for what is right.

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