Webster’s defines courage as “the response of facing and dealing with anything recognized as dangerous, difficult or painful; the courage of one’s convictions, the courage to do what one thinks is right.
And courage is the hallmark of great leadership. Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Then, and in many other situations, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in the lead. He was at the point. As a leader, he often found himself in danger but he never cowered. As a result, he inspired millions of others to join his ranks.
It is interesting that the courage dimension is a trait among leaders from a variety of fields, especially the military. Colin D. Heaton in his recently published biography of fighter pilot Hans Marseille quotes one of the great military strategists of all times, General Rommel:
When your men see the back of your head, they will follow you anywhere. If you can see the back of theirs, then you are in the wrong place.
In Adrian Goldsworthy’s biography, Caesar, he details countless examples of this great leader’s courage. As just one example when Caesar’s 12th and 7th legions were about to be overrun by the Gauls in the battle of Belgae, he went . . . right up to the front of the fighting line, . . . . This willingness to stand and fight, if necessary to die with his men was the confirmation of a growing trust that had developed between Caesar and his troops.
Dr. King’s extraordinary courage was infectious. It bolstered the resolve and commitment of his followers and his cause.