I was having lunch recently with a CEO of a private company who I am fortunate to have as a friend and he mentioned the concept of “valor in leadership.” He was concerned that it was, in essence, becoming a lost art.
When I gave my mind permission to wander off to images of valor in leadership, I realized that the word valor was evoking thoughts of knights in shining armor leading armies to defend their kingdoms, and princes defying fire-breathing dragons to rescue princesses from fortress towers.
Heroism. Risk. Courage. Sacrifice. Loyalty. Love.
All of these ideals were romanticized in my mind of course, but they were all present in that potent elixir of valor.
And yet, when I went to Dictionary.com to get an “official” definition of the word it said nothing about sacrifice, loyalty or love…
boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle; heroic courage; bravery: a medal for valor.
Risk? Of course.
Courage? At its core.
But the words sacrifice, loyalty and love are not included in the definition.
Should they be?
Well, I don’t believe that to be a great leader one must act heroically or face great danger or a battle of any sort. But, I do believe that some of the principles that I am attributing to valor – which may not technically be part of its definition but seem to me to be its underpinning - are critical to great leadership:
Ironically, last summer I wrote a post entitled, “The Leadership Sacrifice and its Toll on Mere Mortals” about sacrificing parts of ourselves to be successful in our leadership roles. I still agree with myself – there is no need to sacrifice parts of ourselves. But, I do believe that leadership forces us to sacrifice in some ways by putting ourselves “out there” for our companies and our teams.
Sacrifice implies giving something up for the sake of a higher good. We often give up our comfort zones to take on the risks of leadership. We face our fears determinedly to lead our organizations well. We may give up anonymity to courageously take on visibility. And we sacrifice the comfort of “knowing” where we are at and what we are dealing with to courageously and boldly move forward into the unknown and lead toward a vision – maybe even a heroic one.
It may not be part of the definition, but I believe that with valor there is loyalty to a bold vision and to a cause greater than one’s self. There is a principled commitment to goals understood by everyone.
There is loyalty to your team and to the company at large. And in loyalty there is belief in the greatness of the vision and the team.
Ultimately, it’s all about love, right? Love of kingdom, love of country, love of family, romantic love. It’s about loving what you are doing down to your bones and letting that exude in the way you lead.
That is leading with valor.
I don’t believe valor is a lost art when it comes to leadership. I believe it’s alive and well and that great leaders demonstrate it every day – just in a much less glorified manner than those hopelessly romantic images that appear when my mind wanders off.
Now, the next question is – do you believe valor is alive and well and critical to great leadership?
Please share your thoughts below in the comments and please join Steve Woodruff and me as we go in-depth on the topic at Leadership Chat this Tuesday evening, April 5th at 8:00 pm Eastern Time. We’d be honored to see you there!
As always, a transcript of the chat will be available the following day on our Leadership Chat website. Leadership Chat happens every Tuesday evening on Twitter at 8pm ET – if you cannot make it this week please feel free to join us in the future!
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Photo is Knight in Shining Armor.