Why Leadership and Courage Is Important

Why Leadership and Courage Is Important

Leadership and Courage

CEO Mark Fingerlin knows leadership and courage. He’s served our nation in the U.S. Navy, held positions as CEO and President of some of the world’s leading financial institutions. Today, he is the Chair of his local Vistage chapter, a network CEOs and a veritable roundtable corporate leadership. You can imagine how much I was looking forward to interviewing Mark in Episodes 12 and 13 – and the experience did not disappoint. Mark is refreshingly candid and he brings his invaluable military perspective toward leadership with him.

Boy Meets World

One of my favorite anecdotes (out of many) that Mark shared was of a gentleman who is the third in a three-generation family business. When it came time for him to take the reins of the company from his father, he found himself suddenly in a position of authority over men who were his father’s peers – many of whom had known him since he was a little boy. How can you feel comfortable, or even competent, to lead in a situation like this? And yet that’s exactly what the business and it’s older members were looking to this individual to do – to lead them. Even if they didn’t quite yet fully respect his ability to do so.

This scenario is playing out in companies every day, where emerging Millennial leaders find themselves taking positions of authority for the first time. In many cases, the team is significantly older and with many more years of experience.

Like the gentleman taking over the family business, are we letting self-limiting beliefs prevent us from fully realizing our leadership potential?  How can I influence and inspire people? One of the best ways to move past this self-limiting belief is to recognize the people who have influenced and inspired us in our lives, and to realize that we can do the same for others.

Role Models Anyone?

Interestingly, Mark notes when he asks Millennials to identify their role models, many seem to have difficulty doing so. Some may not be able to think about any. Others may point to a fictional character, somebody from a movie maybe. “Really, your role model is a movie character?” Is always his response. “Who are the human beings who have inspired you?” With some further questioning and guidance from Mark, they’re eventually able to name the college professor, the high school football coach who inspired and influenced them. This got me thinking about this about how we as the Millennial generation can learn to identify and recognize the role models around us.

Maybe when we think of a role model, we hold them to almost too high a standard. Our role model doesn’t have to be the next incarnation of Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. They don’t have to be flowery, eloquent public speakers. They don’t even have to be at the highest level of their organization, activity, whatever it is they do. The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca had some wise words on choosing a role model:

“Choose someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face, as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval. Be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model.”  

That’s it. It’s short, and it’s sweet. I know we Millennials as a whole tend to be nothing if not a bit cynical and snarky. We can see through marketing spiel and PR BS a mile away. We know better than to blindly believe what we’re told or shown. A picture isn’t even really proof to us in the age of Photoshop. We’ve seen too many cultural “heroes” take that noisy fall from grace.  So, it may feel tougher sometimes for us to bestow our full admiration and approval on anybody as a role model. We don’t want to see ourselves as that kind of starry-eyed believer.

No One Needs To Be Infallible

And you know what? That’s okay. Because we’re not asking our role models to be perfect, just as we can’t ask ourselves to be perfect, as leaders or as human beings. Or as another purveyor of ancient wisdom, Epictetus pointed out, “People are just people, regardless of their talent or influence.” We don’t need to demand that our role models be infallible. We do need to demand that be people who are able to articulate and achieve goals while inviting and encouraging others to do the same.

Likewise, we can’t demand infallibility from ourselves before we allow ourselves to feel comfortable taking a leadership role. Otherwise, we’ll never get there. But we do need to have a clear and compelling vision of what success looks like for ourselves and our team, and what it will take to get there.

Like Mark so succinctly put it in our interview. “John Glen was the first person to orbit the earth. If they had required that the person has five years of experience, you would have never launched John Glen.”   

Until next time…

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