"An act of love, a voluntary taking on oneself some of the pain of the world, increases the courage and love and hope of all," said the Christian activist and peacemaker Dorothy Day. Doing good, sacrificing self for others, increases the fund of soulful bravery in the world. It lifts the spirits of those who are fearful or fretful about risking all to do the right thing.
We appreciate Winston Churchill's statement: "Courage is what he takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." And we are moved by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin who wrote: "All serious daring starts from within."
Parker J. Palmer and the Center for Courage & Renewal and its Circle of Trust approach have been exploring manifestations of courage among individuals and groups for many years. A network of nearly 300 facilitators lead more than 5,000 people each year through their programs and retreats. In The Courage Way, Shelly L. Francis lends her voice and vision to this mission. She has been the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since mid-2012. She describes this work and her prior carreer as having a common thread: to bring people together to facilitate collective impact and good work.
Francis begins by identifying four kinds of courage: physical courage, moral courage, social courage, and creative courage; the latter can lead to collective courage. She quotes Parker J. Palmer on the reason we so often need courage – fear:
" 'Be not afraid' does not mean we cannot have fear. Everyone has fear, and people who embrace the call to leadership often find fear abounding. Instead, the words say we do not need to be the fear we have."
The Courage Way is a leadership training program designed for those who recognize that leadership is:
- "about making good decisions by balancing inevitable tensions and knowing when to take risks,
- "keeping your values in sight regardless of the pressures around you, and staying calm in the storms that arise,
- "listening well and inviting opinions and answers from others,
- "inspiring others with your vision, influencing them with the power of your presence,
- "encourages others to step into their leadership, too."
Francis interviewed more than 120 people to learn how they cultivate courage in their lives and work. They talked about the concepts of the true self, trust, and community, and recommended the practices of paradox and reflection. Key to creating trust is the use of eleven touchstones (see excerpt).
The rest of the book shows through stories and practices how people have found the courage to care for the true self, to answer a calling, to question and listen, to hold tension in a life-giving way, to choose wisely, to connect and trust in each other, and to stay or to leave. Along the way, Francis covers the four lenses of relational trust, finding common ground using "third things," the meaning of calling, open and honest questions for daily life, habits of the heart, and much more.
No matter what kind of work you do, no matter how you engage with communities in the world, you will find best practices for leadership here. A bonus is all the quotes from Parker Palmer and others sprinkled throughout the book to give you inspiration and encouragement.