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Courage: The Backbone of Leadership

Gus Lee and Diane Elliott-Lee

Retail Price: $27.95
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Format: Hardcover, 240pp.
ISBN: 9780787981372
Publisher: Jossey-Bass
Pub. Date: March 3, 2006

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

“Long before the invention of the corporation, we were hardwired to show courage regardless of risk to ourselves. Even today, without courage, nothing—from our relationships to our firms—is safe.”
—From the Introduction

Scandals in business and politics are the lead stories on the national news. Aside from public outrage, not much has changed. This is because the power to change does not come from information, but from modeling and practicing the learnable behaviors of courage. Many of us tolerate unethical acts, emotional abuse, and routine moral weakness. At work, we look away from character failings, tolerate ethical compromises, avoid conflict, and feel stuck in moral gridlock. Yet studies show that ethical businesses profit more in the long term and that morally courageous leaders inspire their organizations toward sustained success. In other words, integrity and character drive profits.

In Courage, Gus Lee captures the essential component of leadership in measurable behaviors. Using actual stories from Whirlpool, Kaiser Permanente, IntegWare, WorldCom and other organizations, Lee shows how highly successful executives face and overcome their fears to develop moral intelligence. These real-world examples offer practical lessons for rooting out unethical practices and behaviors by
  • Assessing them for rightness and integrity
  • Addressing moral failures
  • Following through with dialogue and direct action

An award-winning leader, teacher, and ethicist, two-time Army Meritorious Service Medal recipient, four-time corporate whistleblower, former VP, senior executive, and paratrooper, Gus Lee has experienced firsthand the power and benefits of moral courage and shares them in this book.


“Gus Lee, in this well-written and useful book, demystifies courage and reveals what it is made of: integrity, competence, and good judgment.”
—Warren Bennis, distinguished professor of business, University of Southern California

“When it comes to leadership, Gus Lee has walked the walk and talked the talk. Now in his latest book, he offers all of us who call ourselves leaders a primer on how to gain and maintain in ourselves and our organizations that critical element that makes the difference--courage!”
—H. Norman Schwarzkopf, General, U.S. Army, Retired

“The philosophy and intuitions within Courage apply well to any enterprise in which great difficulties and failure loom and fear is the typical response—including, for this reader, the writing of novels. May we continue to be reminded often why ‘character’ is what we must establish clearly from the beginning and then keep vital and fresh.”
—Amy Tan, author, The Joy Luck Club, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, and Saving Fish From Drowning

“Courage carries a ringing message about the power and the obligation for leaders to take a stand for doing the right thing the right way. In an ever more complex world, this message should resonate in each of use, leaders large and small.”
—Michael D. Thieneman, executive vice president and chief technology officer, Whirlpool Corporation

“I have always enjoyed developing good managers into great leaders. Courage is a superb tool to accomplish that goal. It actually brought tears to my eyes, and I am going to give a copy to my son.”
—John Gerdelman, chairman, Intelliden Corporation

“Great thanks to Gus Lee for this powerful book about courage that he so correctly calls the backbone of leadership. It is a splendid gem with essential wisdom for everyone, but especially for leaders of character on the battlefield, in the marketplace, in our communities, or for anyone who needs to, as he says, cross the river, to make a positive difference.”
—Fred M. Franks, Four-Star General, U.S. Army, Retired; coauthor with Tom Clancy, Into the Storm, A Study in Command; Commanding General, VII Corps, Desert Storm

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About the Authors

Gus Lee is the best-selling author of China Boy and a nationally recognized expert on leadership and ethics. He is also adjunct staff at the Center for Creative Leadership and the U.S. Department of Justice. Lee lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Diane Elliott-Lee is a distinguished and award-winning clinical nurse specialist. She has helped edit Gus’s five previous books and provided the guidance, inspiration, and structure for this book.

Table of Contents
Part One: Backbone at the Point of Decision9
1Chris's Story11
2Seeking Courageous Core Values19
3Going Deeper (and Higher) into Values and Ethics31
4Chris Boldly Moves Forward43
5Coda: Applying Courageous Values at Whirlpool57
Part Two: Courage in Action63
6Courageous Communication65
7The Courageous Communication Model75
8Courageous Feedback89
9Courage by Example105
10Courageous Leadership113
11Three Acts of Courageous Leadership125
12Courageous Problem Solving: The Black Box145
13Using Courageous Communication from the Bottom Up161
Part Three: Growing Your Courage173
14Everyday Habits That Build Courage175
15Your Character Quotient185
16The Courage to Change199
The Authors213

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