Courage emerges in the moment, without time for thought. Our heart opens and we immediately move into action. Someone jumps into an icy lake to save a child, or speaks up at a meeting, or puts them self in danger to help another human being. These sudden actions, even if they put us at risk, arise from clear, spontaneous love.Human history is filled with stories of countless people who have been fearless. If we look at our own families, perhaps going back several generations, we’ll find among our own ancestors those who also have been fearless.In my own experience, I think there’s an important difference between courage and fearlessness.

Wu Feng was a Manchurian diplomat in the 1700s who was posted with an aboriginal tribe in the outskirts of Taiwan. He befriended the aboriginal chief, whose tribe beheaded one of its members every year as a form of sacrifice. Each year Wu Feng pleaded, with all his compassion and reverence for life, for the chief to put to an end to this custom. The chief would listen respectfully, then summon the chosen tribe member and without hesitation behead him.

Finally, after living with the tribe for 25 years, Wu Feng once more pleaded with the chief to stop the killing. But this time, when the tribe member was called forth, Wu Feng took his place and said, “If you will kill this time, it will be me.” The chief stared long into his old friend’s eyes. He could not kill him. And from that day, the practice of beheading stopped.

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There are many kinds of leaders and all kinds of leadership, but the leaders we remember the most—the ones who remain unforgettable—are those who lead with courage. The courageous speak up when no one else will. The courageous step up and out when no one cares. The courageous risk when no one else dares.There is a stubbornness found in courageous leaders. They are not easily frightened and they allow their courage to rise, especially when they feel intimidated. Courage emerges in the moment, without time for thought. Our heart opens and we immediately move into action. Someone jumps into an icy lake to save a child, or speaks up at a meeting, or puts them self in danger to help another human being. These sudden actions, even if they put us at risk, arise from clear, spontaneous love.

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