Having taken part in a training programme by one of my (few) heroes, Margaret Wheatley at the beautiful Schumacher College in Devon, UK, I realised that one of they most important traits we can nurture in the 21st century is Courage.
I found some lovely quotes that capture why I think that is.
- In the 21st century, we need to be able to let go of many of the things that have worked for us in the past: “Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” Raymond Lindquist (American Presbyterian Pastor in California, 1907-2001)
- Not only do we need to let go of things that have worked for us in the past, we often need to head in the absolute opposite direction: “Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – top move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein
- Letting go of what has worked for us so well in the past evokes fear: “I learned that courage is not the absence of fear. But the triumph over it. the brace man is to he who does to feel afraid. but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
- Yet courage is not about recklessness. It requires awareness, contemplation, understanding, humility and integrity: “With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.” Mark Twain
- For all of that we have to learn to listen more carefully to our heart and intuition: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” Steve Jobs
Embracing courage requires courage !
In my view, one of the areas where we need it most is education.
One of the new approaches that seems to spread wide and far are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). “Is Traditional College Education an Endangered Species?” is an article that reflects on this new way to educate.
As the article points out, younger generations may fall in more naturally with such programmes – which is why I believe that particularly high levels of courage are required to bring forth urgently needed changes in executive education. The younger generation are already living the new realities of the 21st century. As I like to say, normality is what we experience on a daily basis and the young generation have not know anything different. Current decision makers have been educated, and experienced a very different reality. Not only that, they also seem often too busy to notice where, why and how the 21st century is so different. This is something I have concluded based on the answer of such (grey-haired, grey-suited) decision makers to the question: “What do you think is the next big thing influencing consumer purchasing decisions?” (see insert below).
Broadly speaking young audiences, it take a couple of seconds before “social and environmental considerations” are proposed; older audiences on the other hand often remain silent, and what is more, react highly sceptical when I share the answer of younger generations.
In this context I very much like what an UK based insurance company did back in the 90 when someone with great foresight realised that the board of the company had no clue about emails and the internet, and no natural inclination to do anything about it. So they instituted a ‘reverse mentoring’ programme that turned the assumption that the mentor is the older and the mentee is the younger one on its head: young, self-confident graduates were teamed up with board members to help them understand and get up to speed with email and the internet. Courage – in all its above definitions – was required all round: from those suggesting such a scheme, from the young graduates, and from the board members.
When have you last been courageous?