I was less than one half mile into my six mile hike when I felt the first raindrops. There were just a few drops but I knew hiking in the mountains in a storm could be dangerous. So I stopped and turned back toward the trailhead. The move to depart was instinctive; one born of experience and weakness.
Experience (mine and others) clearly teaches to take few risks in the mountains. Although powerful, the real reason I turned back was a weakness in my character.
I have lived a privileged life. Never wanted for food, shelter or comfort. I have been able to maintain that comfort by avoiding difficult situations. In other words, I am good at working around obstacles rather than pushing through them. On one hand, that is not a bad skill to have. On the other, avoiding obstacles rather than pushing through them can limit opportunity.
I was about one hundred yards into my retreat before I stopped to reevaluate the conditions. When I did stop, I looked up to see that in fact, the rain I had felt was not really a storm but an isolated thundercloud that would quickly pass giving way to a clearing spring sky.
Character is the most important aspect of authentic leadership. One of the essential elements of character is courage and that is where I am weak. In having learned to avoid obstacles, I have developed the ability to press through situations with firmness valor and boldness. This means I miss opportunities that could provide great benefits to me and to others.
The payoff for demonstrating courage on my hike was this view. Had I not pushed past my instinctive reaction to a light rain I would have missed this scene.
Authentic leadership requires character and strong character, requires courage. The leadership challenges we each face require us to stop and really evaluate the situation and not succumb to the first few obstacles. Mastering our context and applying our full capability allows us to lead others to new places.
C.S. Lewis said “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” When those testing points appear don’t turn back too quickly.