The path to Navigating Courage began in 2016. I was presenting at the International Leadership Association (ILA) Conference in Atlanta, Ga. It was not long after a white supremacist terrorist murdered nine African Americans during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. This church is one of the oldest black churches in the United States, and it has long been a center for organizing events related to civil rights.
Still shaken by and in direct response to this act of terror, my colleagues and I facilitated a session entitled: “Leading Beyond Hate to Healing: Leveraging The Power of Communication and Connections.”
Before the presentation, we asked audience members what they hoped to learn from our time together. One by one, they [stood and spoke variations on three clear themes:
“I want to really do something and learn how to be more Courageous.”
“I want to learn how to use my voice and privilege towards social change.”
“I want to learn how to become a courageous leader.”
I listened intently to their anguish, authenticity, and hurt. I heard them yearning for ways to help in the fight to build a more just and equitable world and to end racism once and for all. And I wrote one word on a notecard:
As I wrote, my focus sharpened to the single syllable at the end of my pen:
That moment marked the beginning of my exploration of the idea that a level of rage is, quite literally, embedded in the very essence of courage. In my resulting series of lectures, writings, research, and book, I began to distinguish between being mad or upset and experiencing the deeper emotion of rage. To be sure, individuals may be angered and upset about their individual circumstances (s). But I came to understand that when they are enraged, outraged, or raging about a circumstance, it is often because they see it within the context of larger systems or oppressive structures. Seen through that more holistic lens, CouRage is not about individuals; CouRage is about community. CouRage reveals itself when we recognize that our shared humanity sustains our very existence and then act to upend oppressive structures and build new ones based on our interdependence.