Courage and the Business of Leadership

As a 2LT in 1979

How often do we think about what it takes (beyond our skills) to keep doing what we’re doing. Particularly when it’s tough stuff.
This reminds me of my time in the army; going through boot camp, officer candidate school and assignments overseas. Those situations required some courage on my part – combined with a few fears I might add. Many days I wondered if I could make it through the rigorous training and if it was worthy of all the effort. But I made it and saw also a part of my purpose become clear – to support and defend as well as embark on a new career! Twenty years later, I’m very glad I took that leap! Even then, I drew on my upbringing and the lessons from my determined and persevering elders. Theirs and my own challenges and victories prepared me for other career experiences to come, especially as a “solepreneur” and author.

So I recently had a conversation with a few other business owners/ consultants about our marketing challenges in today’s economically shifted private and government landscape. And what keeps us pressing on as entrepreneurs, in spite of. So I shared an excerpt from one of the stories in my book, Navigating Life’s Roadways.

Courage Corner
By trying often, the monkey learns to jump from the tree.
Cameroon proverb

The lion in The Wizard of Oz wanted it.
Soldiers in the face of battle exhibit it.
Facing a medical challenge requires it.
New and seasoned business owners need it.
What is it? Courage.
To be able to stand in the face of something imposing, while not knowing the outcome, stretches our mettle. At some point we all find ourselves at this type of crossroad.
Do we veer off or take it on? Bold and daring?
As a ‘single shingle’ sole proprietor, the onus is on me to market my capabilities in order to find clients for training and consulting projects. Each week, month or year presents business viability questions with no (immediate) answers at times.
Can I find new clients? What repeat business might come my way?
Will my work calendar fill?
So I get busy. Through networking at events, referrals or cold calls— the impetus to pursue my livelihood in order to ‘sleep, eat and be merry,’ keeps me in a state of flutter or frustration. Ask any independent consultant and most will tell you that marketing does not rank as a favorite activity. Being put off or rejected are always risks with potential clients. As organizational budgets change, what was once a sure thing for one of my projects can quickly disappear. Training funds tend to get the hack when organizations cut back. The feast or famine nature of this business often moves me from glee to gloom. Is it courage or pure crazy? I sometimes wonder. And keep trying, because I want to.
This same type of unease is widespread in life. In today’s unsteady economy, safety and security are sometimes elusive. A sense of stability and grounding invites us to enter what we may have thought was a risk- free zone in certain careers and businesses, but volatility occasionally erupts. Organizational downsizing, an unpredictable stock market and the fervor of Mother Nature require us to face obstacles of varying proportions. We’re forced to step out into unknown territories, pushing on while constantly weighing pros and cons. Let us jump valiantly anyway.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained”, according to Chaucer, a 14th century English poet.

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About Deborah L. Parker

Deborah L. Parker is a sought after speaker on issues of leadership, personal development, career management, communications and diversity through her company The DPJ Training Group. She has also written on these topics for business publications in the Metropolitan DC and Phoenix AZ communities. Deborah is the author of 5 non-fiction books on life choices, workplace problem-solving, leadership and career management to include a well-received motivational memoir, Navigating Life’s Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey, which chronicles her setbacks and successes around work, family, culture and relationship issues. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from The College of William and Mary and M.A. in Human Resource Development from George Mason University. Deborah gleans learnings from her varied careers as an Army officer as well as in corporate operations and human resources positions with ExxonMobil and Booz Allen Hamilton to cement her presentations. She is a member of the Loudoun County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Chamber of Commerce and Metro DC Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development.

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