Leader Trends: Are We Cowards?

By | September 18, 2014

[September 18, 2014] When I ask the question of my colleagues, “Are we cowards?” or “Are we leaders, cowards?” the answer I get might surprise you. First we must be clear what a coward means to the general population. There are nuances and sometimes confusion to the specific meaning; but for our purposes it means the lack of courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things1. With that definition, I would propose that most in most societies, they are not cowards; else the society would have ceased to exist long ago.

Some people have noted that the Islamic terrorists of ISIS2 are calling all Westerners, especially American leaders, “cowards.” The pejorative use of the term coward certainly has a double edge; referring to lacking physical and moral courage. Lacking physical courage to meet them on the battlefield with our standing armies and lacking moral courage of our politicians to do anything about them. They see fear in the West and many analysts say that emboldens them further.

Several years ago, the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called Americans “cowards” when it comes to discussing race. He is African-American and believes that all non-whites have been disrespected and prevented from achieving their best. He is quick to blame the high unemployment rate and other social ills of African-Americans on racism by whites. Furthermore, we are simply afraid to talk about it, he says. In this example, Holder is referring to a lack of moral courage.

When I ask my friends, “Are we cowards?” they tell me that there is no lack of physical courage. When it comes to our military troops, their experience over decades reinforces that viewpoint. They are less confident about the general population but they believe they can easily gain anytime what might be lacking. Many showed physical courage on September 11, 2001.

What they fear most and keeps them up at night, is the lack of moral courage. They see, as I do, a worrying trend that crosses most Western societies. We believe that these societies discourage moral courage and inexplicably reinforce moral cowardice. This is not the only vice we see – for example lying is becoming more common. Yet, a growing victimization mentality emerges as our societies push for a larger and greater welfare state, socially elevating the downtrodden and disparaging the achievers. What will become of Western societies depends solely upon the challenges and threats we will have to face.

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[1] The definition implies a reference to both physical and moral courage. This is where the confusion normally comes into play. Which of these or both is being referenced is not always clear. The Merriam-Webster web-based dictionary carries this confusion also. See their definition here: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coward

[2] The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The U.S. White House refers to it as the Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL).


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

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