Once, Maya Angelou was asked which virtue is the most important of all virtues. She answered, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
This is why courage is critical for leadership. With courage, a leader has the Character and integrity which build the earned trust of followers, which becomes earned influence, also known as leadership. Courage helps leaders make difficult decisions, even in the worst of situations. With courage, leaders can challenge the decisions and actions of others, even in the face of overwhelming objection. Courage empowers leaders to take a stand in the most difficult of circumstances.
Fortitude is the “strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage.”1 If courage is a steering wheel which a person steers towards the correct path even in the face of adversity, then fortitude is the engine that powers the steering wheel. Fortitude is the mentality that stands behind courage of action. For a leader, it is necessary to have fortitude, the strength to face situations head-on, however challenging they may be, and have the courage to act ethically. Fortitude and courage work together as the basis of all virtues.
1. Merriam Webster Dictionary