If I asked you to describe, not define, “bravery,” what would you say? Would the words flow freely describing the actions you thought exemplified bravery or would you stumble, relegated to using the typical synonyms: courage, valor, grit, heroism.
Most law enforcement agencies award medals or citations for courageous and brave actions taken by its officers in the line of duty. The FBI is no exception. Both the FBI Shield of Bravery and FBI Medal of Valor are presented “for brave and courageous acts occurring in the line of duty” and “recognition of an exceptional act of heroism or voluntary risk of personal safety and life,” respectfully. I have a few personal friends and know colleagues who have received these medals and they are definitely both brave and leaders. However, one thing they are not is fearless. They share the same human emotions we all do, but when confronted with a difficult situation, sometimes a life changing situation, they acted, not for themselves, but in the service of others.
This is an article for a blog about leadership and while it would be easy to use examples of heroic actions by men and women willing to sacrifice their own lives, I want to highlight and learn from the actions of men and women who demonstrated bravery in the course of daily life. Because, as J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in The Return of the King, “Courage is found in unlikely places.”
My mother was brave every time she endured sleepless nights to comfort me as a child when I was sick or injured from some adolescent accident. My aunt was brave when she continued to care for her family and friends even when fighting cancer. My high school history teacher was brave when he stood up to the ridicule of insensitive teenagers and still found creative and insightful ways to teach and instill a lifelong love of history in those of us willing to learn. I’m confident you know equally brave people.
Professionally, speaking truth to power can be a risky undertaking. It’s no coincidence we immediately understand the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger.” Thankfully, there are some individuals with the courage to speak up to those in power and tell them when a discriminatory policy needs eliminating, an unreasonable decision needs reviewing or an unethical action needs correcting.
Are you a brave person? Do you sacrifice your time to help others? Do you selflessly serve others even when facing your own personal challenges? Are you willing to speak up and speak truth to power when you see wrongs being committed? Bravery is not reserved for those fleeting moments between life and death. Bravery is reserved for those willing to embody and embrace a life of self-sacrifice. Be brave, be a leader in all aspects of life.