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The Backbone of Leadership


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

To be a great leader, you need the courage of your ethical convictions, in spite of fear. Brace yourself to be your best.

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  • Applicable


Corporate employees and managers should take a stand against unethical behavior, but that requires the courage to live, work and lead in congruence with your highest values. Author Gus Lee offers a "primer" on courage, including how it shapes decision making, how leaders can demonstrate it in their work, and how you and your employees can learn courage, and use it to support each other and to build moral businesses. To illustrate ethical behavior, Lee discusses case histories of individual courage in corporate life. His discussion is sometimes repetitious, and the vignettes are occasionally confusing, since he may refer back to examples he presented many chapters ago. Despite such flaws, these accounts offer key lessons. getAbstract believes that executives and managers can learn about principled action - and can reinforce it among their subordinates - by reading Lee’s book and passing it along.


The Test at the Crossroads

Tests of your courage occur at "points of decision" in your life, when institutional crises cross paths with your personal beliefs. For example, if you are an accountant, what do you do if your boss asks you to sign off on an audit you know is incomplete? Decide whether ethics or expediency will guide you. Build up reserves of courage to prepare for difficult decisions. Leaders, in particular, must make courageous choices, but decisions are stressful because people resist change and are reluctant to relinquish bad habits. Consider the following story.

IntegWare Defines Its Values

IntegWare, a management software firm, was in trouble. When Christopher Armstrong Kay, a seasoned engineer, came in as CEO, morale was low, disagreements were common and the firm was nearly defeated. First, Kay concentrated on the traditional elements of business: revenue, productivity and output. However, he soon realized that the company lacked a central operating principle. Employees were not familiar with necessary values, such as "integrity, teamwork, innovation and customer focus."

Kay embarked on a mission to wake them up, starting with his personal...

About the Authors

Gus Lee is the author of China Boy, and an expert on leadership and ethics. He is on the adjunct staff at the Center for Creative Leadership and the U.S. Justice Department. Diane Elliott-Lee is a clinical nurse specialist.

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