Courage: The Indispensable Virtue for Leadership

By Christopher Brenton (NC State)

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”-C.S. Lewis

In his keynote address to the collegiate audience at College of Chapters, Wells Ellenberg, Sigma Nu Fraternity’s 2012 Man of the Year and former Collegiate Grand Councilman, delivered an inspirational speech acknowledging the challenges that will undoubtedly test young leaders. With his words, Brother Ellenberg outlined a definition for the ethical leadership Sigma Nu’s are called to uphold.

“Ethical leaders are those who lead with vision and courage.  They have a vision of a better future for their organization and are willing to make the courageous decisions along the way to turn that vision into reality.” –Wells Ellenberg

For many of our brothers, it is easy to identify the necessary changes that must take place for their chapter to be successful. We’ve thought (or maybe are currently thinking), overheard, and found ourselves saying, “Things will be different when the seniors graduate,” only to discover that this is not the case.  We’ve dreamed of ideal Greek communities, blamed our inter-fraternal peers, begged the media for more positive publicity, and have taken the time to draft our plans.

SwordHowever, many will end their term as officers never having created real change for their chapters. What prevented their visions from becoming a reality was a lack of courage. When faced with adversity, it is only those who are truly courageous that have what it takes to be leaders for our organization.

Admittedly, members of our fraternity are faced with adversity and difficult decisions daily. However, it is essential that Sigma Nus fulfill their obligation to excellence – especially those who lead. Times will come when the right decision is not the popular decision, where creating an environment that upholds the safety of the membership requires tough conversations with alumni and collegiate brothers about ending dangerous long-standing traditions, where being a bystander is not an option, where confrontation will be necessary and where truly being a brother doesn’t always feel like being a “friend.”

Being courageous is hard. Fortunately there are models of courageous behavior that show the way. The video below provides six examples of people who found courage. These six ordinary people found that they had the ability to do extraordinary things.

 “So I think, ‘Why me?’ and then I think, ‘Why not me!?” –Mattie Stepanek

Whether it’s the founders who stood up for what they believed in, a close personal mentor, or every day heroes that help make finding courage possible, in 2014 I hope you resolve to be courageous and I ask, “With this courage, what will you do for Sigma Nu?”

Christopher Brenton is a 2012 graduate of North Carolina State University where he majored in marketing. He is currently serving as a leadership consultant for the General Fraternity Staff.

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