the backbone of leadership (2006)
by Gus Lee

Churchill of Great Britain once deemed courage “the first of all human qualities.”  It is the one quality needed for human survival. He talks about 3 base skills : courageous communication, courageous leadership, and courageous problem solving.

There are 4 steps to courageous communication model :

1) Communicate Collegially
Approach others with unconditional positive respect. Be ethical, supportive, and encouraging.


2) Listen Actively with Empathy

Capture what the other person is feeling – the in feeling in that person’s context, without being detached from or swamped by it. You must geniunely hear the other person and reflect back what you hear.


3) Ask Questions on Point.

Ask open-ended questions.


4) Relate Respectfully

Focus on support, encouragement, moving forward, partnering and accountability.


Competence comes from practicing a skill until it becomes second nature. Courage in practice is powerful. Practice produces big dividends; fear is faced, which improves important things like decision making. It builds big things like relationships and quality of life.

Everyone needs continual feedback, encouragement, and support. It will be better to have a routine performance returns (RPR) with a 4:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback.


There is a story in the book in which a Major H. Norman Schwarzkopf was telling the experiences to the author. He said that careerists are self-centered, self-absorbed. They act out of selfishness. They sacrifice their men for a promotion. They lie to pump up results. They save their skins instead of others’. Careerists can’t really lead because their men do not trust them and will not willingly follow.

You cross the border. You destroy the enemy to protect your men. You then take the personal consequences to your career, knowing that you violated an order, but acted for what is right. You feel pride in getting court-martialed and being reduced to a private. Everyone’s a leader or isn’t . It’s not rank. It’s character.


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