When we think about successful entrepreneurs and companies we often talk about a number of qualities that, we think, have been the cornerstone to their success. Talent, passion, work ethics, resiliency, confidence are just me of the common characteristics that are often cited at the core DNA of great entrepreneurs, teams and companies. Even though all those qualities are definitely required in order to build a great company, I feel that quite often we (I’ve been guilty about this as well) tend to undermine one the most important qualities of any successful entrepreneur: courage.
When I was a teenager, I came across what has become my all-time favorite quote about courage and one that I think has been present at any important moment in my life. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle once said:
“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.”
Think about it, when hiring people, we tend to get obsessed trying to find great talent, passion, honesty and, sometimes, we don’t realize that most of those qualities never surfaced in important situation unless they are driven by a courageous act.
Honesty and transparency are some of the noblest qualities you can nurture in your team or company but most people will have a hard time staying honest when that honesty can cost them their job, their marriage, a friendship. Leadership and passion can be the cornerstone of any successful company; however, most people will have a difficult time leading when they know that any mistakes can destroy the entire company. Convictions and values will certainly shape the culture of the company but it takes true courage to stay loyal to your values when the entire world is telling you you are wrong. Without courage, most of the other qualities in your team r company will only surface during the “better times”.
As a founder CEO, my advice is to value and nurture courage as one of the main qualities of your team. When interviewing people for leadership positions, try to identify how they will react in difficult situations. Test them out, are they going to panic ? are they going to paralyze and be unable to make any important decisions ? or are they going to stay calm and be a hero?
To wrap it up, I will leave you with another one of my favorite quotes about courage:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” Steve Jobs