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There's leadership. And, there's courageous leadership.

As I redesign my message on courage to be RESPONSE ABILITY: A Call for Courageous Leadership, I assert there are some of you who have asked the question, “What the heck is courageous leadership?” This is a very valid question, especially with so many definitions of leadership out there and many of them including some kind of qualifier: ethical leadership, servant leadership, organizational leadership, personal leadership…on and on. So, how is courageous leadership distinct from any general definition of leadership along with any variation of it? 
 
To answer this question, I must first provide my definition and then look at how this stacks up against others. First, to be clear, this is not simply about leadership.  It’s not about simply being courageous.
 
Courageous leadership is standing up, stepping in, and speaking out. That’s it. It’s that simple. Yet, it’s not easy. 
 
I can expand on this by defining...
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What really is a hero, anyway?

As we all hear the word "hero" used from time to time, have you ever asked yourself the question, "What is a hero, anyway?" I have asked that question many times. As I inquired into this more, and have spoken to many people about this, others also came up for me:

  • Is a hero someone we simply admire, respect, look up to?
  • Is a hero some kind of "superhero" with "super powers?"
  • Does it take a lot of money and fame to be a hero?
  • When I show courage, does that make me a hero?
  • What's involved in being a hero?
  • Can we call ourselves a hero?
  • Why do we have such a weird relationship to the word "hero?"

You may have asked yourself these same questions. So, let's start now by looking at the concept of "hero" and "heroism."

While there are many interpretations of what a hero is, I have adopted the definition used by the Heroic Imagination Project:

Heroes are people who transform compassion (a personal virtue) into heroic action (a civic virtue). In doing so, they put their best selves forward...

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From Passive to Powerful

(This post was originally written in March of 2015 following the incident at the University of Oklahoma that got national attention.)

Like many of you, I have been paying close attention to all the news regarding the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma. As someone who visits campuses and speaks to tens of thousands of college students each year, I often think I have heard it all. However, I wasn’t prepared for this. Maybe it was because I had just seen the inspiring footage over the weekend of the tens of thousands of people marching in Selma, Alabama. Maybe it was because of the tears I shed as I listened to our president’s remarks in front of that bridge. Maybe it’s because the actions were just outright abhorrent and, as OU President Boren swiftly and powerfully said, “disgraceful."

Even amidst all of my personal feelings, I know this is not who we are. I know this is not what Sigma Alpha Epsilon is truly about. I know this is not...

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