What is moral courage? How does it compare to physical courage? These quotes answer these questions.
Be with a leader when he is right, stay with him when he is still right, but, leave him when he is wrong. – Abraham Lincoln
Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change. – Robert F. Kennedy
Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right. – Theodore Roosevelt
Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. – Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men. – George S. Patton
Caesar was a man of great common sense and good taste, meaning thereby a man without originality or moral courage. – George Bernard Shaw
Moral courage is powered by character, integrity, compassion, altruism, duty, and virtue. You can’t have it unless you have these other qualities.
If a person is responsible for others, be it dozens, thousands, or millions, the amount of moral courage required and expected is equivalent. To fall short is to shirk responsibility and chip away at one’s own character and reputation. The most public forum to observe this is with politicians. Some place greater importance on self-interest and self-preservation than on duty and oath. For others with moral courage and integrity, it’s the other way around. The latter are the men and women we want to be.
As a senior corporate manager, I often faced choosing moral courage over self-preservation in keeping my job. Sometimes it involved my staff, and sometimes it involved our customers.
I found that moral courage was rare inside a corporation when I was there. It seemed to conflict with the path to success. The more you just went along with things, just smiled, and kept your mouth shut, the greater your success and especially your longevity.
We were in the middle of a major evaluation and critique of our 900 franchised dealers across the United States. It was being backed with the implied threat of losing their franchise. The idea was worthwhile, but the guidelines and execution were ridiculous. For example, in some cases, we asked a dealer to add 300 sqft to their showrooms. That was an absurd request, which I never pressed with any dealer. Why ludicrous? Great cost for zero return.
In one case, my new boss, who had zero moral courage or character, wanted me to find a way to get rid of a great dealer he disliked. And he wanted to use this evaluative project to do it. As a division head, I led a team of district managers who visited my allocated group of dealers to present the evaluation findings. In this particular case, I arranged to visit the dealer alone.
I had signed the dealer as a franchisee years before. They were some of the finest people of all dealers I ever met. They had moral courage, which they demonstrated once again during our meeting. They were actually more concerned about me than themselves.
I told them carefully that they needed to do what was being asked of them in the evaluation for the time being to avoid any possibility of being terminated. They agreed to accommodate the evaluation to support me more than to protect themselves. It was amazing. I felt good about doing that with that dealer.
I did the same many times with my staff as well. I always sought to protect them. I also encouraged their development and advancement, even if it meant they would be promoted to a different department. I was no pushover, though. I expected and got 100% performance from my staff.
Most of my moral courage came from watching my grandfather’s behavior during his dealings with his business and his apartments. He always acted with integrity. Always!
I have not always had strong moral courage. There were a few incidents where I did not act with sufficient moral courage. Fortunately, it grew over the years. It seems to be one of the benefits of getting older.
What is the health of your moral courage? Does it need strengthening? Does it have a solid foundation based on principles and mentors? If not, it’s definitely a worthwhile pursuit that will make you feel good about yourself and your life.