The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Reflection: Embracing Courage in Leadership

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“Profiles in Courage: Leading through Bravery” Jonathan Briffault 

On Thursday, October 15th, Jonathan Briffault presented on “Profiles in Courage: Leading through Bravery.” Jonathan is a History and Government Double Major at Dartmouth. Additionally, he is the Vice President of Dartmouth’s Student Assembly and the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, and he holds various other leadership positions in his organizations of interest. His interest in politics and the US Senate inspired him to study the profiles of great political leaders and engage in discourse on the key to their greatness. In his presentation, he speaks on what he believes to be the values that make a great leader—specifically courage—and draws from the experiences of political leaders he admires to illustrate how their courage to do the unexpected and take risks in times of need separates them from other leaders in US history.

Jonathan highlights the significance of politicians in our society, for they are at the forefront of visible leadership; however, he recognizes the fact that Politicians are often ridiculed for following public opinion rather than exercising true leadership. Throughout his presentation, he demonstrates the importance of standing up for one’s convictions and values as a leader. The most prominent examples are drawn from John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. In his book, Kennedy states that “Americans want to be liked—and Senators are no exception” (Kennedy 3). Jonathan notes that the most memorable politicians are those who made decisions against the bandwagon, and through courage, fought for what they saw as right—jeopardizing re-election, likability, or the help of lobbying group. After describing detailed accounts of politicians standing for their values against their party ties, we see the importance of courage in leadership. Having courage allows you to take personal responsibility for the ills in the world that run contrary to your values (Robert Neville). According to Jonathan, “Courageous behavior allows you to successfully face ‘Points of Decision,’” encouraging a leader to make ethical decisions despite “…the pressure of [their] constituency, the interest groups, the organized letter writers, the economics blocs and even the average voter” (Kennedy 8).

As Jonathan illustrated, we often see courage in leadership through unexpected acts and decisions that go against grain. The concept of courageous leaderships does not go too far from our daily lives. As leaders in our various communities, it is imperative that we embrace such courage in our leadership. Firstly, it is important that we have and uphold a strong set of values that embody integrity and empathy for those who follow our leadership. When we have the community’s best interest at heart, it is much easier to exercise courage in our decision making which allows us as leaders to create and maintain an ethical and progressive environment.

-Written by Esther Omene, Class of 2021 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow 

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals. 

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