This is an excerpt from The Core 4, by Brimstone’s Managing Founder, Bob Weiler. The book explores the foundational capabilities of any organization, from a small group to a global enterprise—leadership, change, alignment, and energy. These core drivers are critical to accelerating growth, performance, and profitability.
Being a leader means exhibiting a special type of moral courage, one that goes beyond being open and honest.
Years ago, I came across a brief but powerful essay about leadership that really resonated with me. I copied it into my notebook and passed it on to many, many others. Apparently, I’m not alone. Though its author is unknown, this essay is quoted often, in everything from commencement addresses to eulogies. It seems even more important today than back when I read it in an Outward Bound “watch logbook” forty years ago. I’ve changed the pronouns to make the story more inclusive.
The world needs more people who do not have a price at which they can be bought; who do not borrow from integrity to pay for expediency; who have their priorities straight and in proper order; whose handshake is an ironclad contract; who are not afraid of taking risks to advance what is right; and who are as honest in small matters as they are in large ones.
The world needs more people whose ambitions are big enough to include others; who know how to win with grace and lose with dignity; who do not believe that shrewdness and cunning and ruthlessness are the three keys to success; who still have friends they made twenty years ago; who put principle and consistency above politics or personal advancement; and who are not afraid to go against the grain of popular opinion.
The world needs more people who do not forsake what is right just to get consensus because it makes them look good; who know how important it is to lead by example, not by barking orders; who would not have you do something they would not do themselves; who work to turn even the most adverse circumstances into opportunities to learn and improve; and who love even those who have done some injustice or unfairness to them. The world, in other words, needs more true leaders.
Being a leader means exhibiting a special type of moral courage, one that goes beyond being open and honest. You may find yourself speaking truth to power, or confronting an audience that may not necessarily be receptive to the painful truth. Or you may have to take on your boss or your Board. In these cases, lesser leaders might fold and walk away, unwilling to face potential disagreement.
Disagreeing with a superior doesn’t necessarily have to create conflict. In these situations, how you say it—how you frame the discussion, your tone, approach, and timing—matters as much as (or more than) the discussion. You may be disagreeing or providing a different point of view. But you have to commit to living and leading with moral courage. Because morality isn’t optional. And courage isn’t someone else’s job.