For the Greeks, courage wasn’t simply an emotional experience—it also had a cognitive component. “It wasn’t just something you did without thinking,” Kouzes and Posner write. “Courage required making a choice in the face of adversity.” In other words, it is state of mind. “While there is certainly a physiological component when we encounter adversity,” the authors continue, “we can make choices about how we handle it.” Kouzes and Posner asked a number of people to describe times in their lives when they “believed they demonstrated courage, whatever they understood that word to mean.” The stories that were elicited underscored the degree to which people’s lives “were never the same after they had chosen to act. The moment of courage was liberating; it was transformative. Courage was the X Factor in change.
“Courage is the virtue that’s needed if we’re going to enact anything that is significantly important to us,” the authors continue. “Leadership is courage in action.”