Courage: The Backbone of Leadership by Gus Lee

Courage the backbone of leadership

There was a great article posted on my LinkedIn group America’s Leadership Crisis: Reigniting Our Character written by group member Vincent J. Bove, CPP is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.”

America must pause and honestly assess our leadership crisis.

Throughout every facet of society—corporate, government, sports, entertainment, and even faith-based communities—we see alarming stories of scandal and corruption.

America is privileged to have democracy, prosperity, and cherished freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. But, character must be the center of our privileges and freedoms.

Character must be the heartbeat of the nation.

A very nice article! that speaks to the importance of core values to our organizations.

In the article Vincent talks about the scandals that all too often seem to plague our society and its based in the lack of core values. When we stopped developing character, we started with anything goes as long as we succeed and this has taken us down the lost path. The lost path is; if it does not matter how we go about succeeding, if the ends justify the means, no matter what! At the expense of what? Then what we get is the lack of character, and integrity and organizations that may make headway in the short term but in the long term, they will fail. Americas leadership crisis is real and concerning but it can be repaired. "It has taken generations for us to get to this point and it will take time to get back on track" and well worth the effort to build effective leaders with strength of character, courage and integrity!

This article also reminded me of a great book on the topic I just read last month although the book has been around since 2006. It’s titled Courage: the Backbone of Leadership by Gus Lee. In the book the author lists core values and lays out these values in three levels:

Low core values are common habits. The behaviors of low core values can be found in all common organizations by the most unperceptive observer. Yet people refuse to admit they follow low core values. It’s amusing that our low core values are desperately denied in public, openly criticized in the media and popular followed behind closed doors. It’s amusing but not funny. These are bad practices on the far side of the river of fear that sinks spirits, kill morale, and cause organizations to tank. Abuse, appearances, arrogance, backstabbing, bigotry, bribery, cliques, control, cronyism, disrespect, egotism are only a short list of low core values. Do any of these sound familiar?

Middle core values (customer focus, communication, compassion, consideration, creativity, development, diversity, duty, education, encouragement ethics, excellence, innovation, honesty, honor, humility, leadership, learning, loyalty, quality, respect, service, support, teamwork), are visible best practices. Practiced purely, they are rare, but a good observer can see them in operation. Middle core values are good values. But they can seduce a leader or organization into thinking he or it has achieved genuine excellence. Middle core values are admirable and desirable, but they’re on the by-products of high core values.

High core values: Great values suggest high core values. These are the highest priciples. They are platinum standard in a world that likes to trade in tin. History has tested these principles from ancient China and Greece through the age of Humanism to modern American capitalism, They have emerged enduring, sustaining, profitable and heroic.

There are but three high core values:

  • Integrity
  • Courage
  • Character

In the book he lists as HIGH Core Values: Integrity, Courage and Character. Gus Lee also digs deep into each of these in a masterful way. Here is just a small piece of how he has it laid out in the book.


Integrity is acting for what is right. When we do this, we feel whole and uniquely powerful. Integrity comes from the Latin for ‘complete’ and ‘incorruptible.’ Integrity has three parts:

  1. Discern right from wrong.
  2. Act for what is right regardless of risk to self.
  3. Teach other from the act of integrity.

In this very definition lives high human conduct.


Courage is the mental and moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. It comes from the Latin and Middle English word for ‘heart.’ Courage is the tip of the spear of integrity and the spark plug for principled conduct. It is integrity at it highest. This is because it faces fear, converts integrity into habit and gives enduring power and usefulness to leadership.


Character is the result of sustained integrity and courage. It derives from a Greek word that means ‘engrave, impress deeply and permanently.’ It is possessed by a person with fixed habits or moral firmness and excellence who acts spontaneously for what is right.

A person of character has consistently demonstrated the behavior of courage and integrity over a lifetime.

But when we apply the highest value word to those who frequently but inconsistently demonstrated courage or use it in other careless ways, the word character loses its meaning.

Character is the most challenging core value because it requires a lifetime to fulfill.

I highly recommend the book. What I have written here is just the tip of the iceberg and Gus Lee brings new meaning to what core values mean and what it takes to create and nurture them in individuals that benefit organizations. Topics like courageous communication will help you learn more effective ways to solve personality and group conflicts. How to Coach and mentor underperformers and average performers through giving performance feedback. Learn how to utilizing relationships, resources and results or as Gus Lee explains it; Good Relationships + Resources = Results.

There is also my favorite chapter in the book on Courageous feedback where the author describes the negative and positive feelings we people have when we feel as though we are being judged. He then gives you a great method of confronting unprincipled behavior that encourages people through ethical, supportive and encouraging leadership and building people up. Good leaders develop others!

Courage The Backbone of Leadership makes a great tool for teaching, creating and nurturing the values needed to make meaningful and lasting change.


Stay Oriented!