Newsletter by Barbara Mintzer

Barbara Mintzer's Newsletter
The Power of a Vision... a Leader's Journey

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August 2005
The Five Characteristics of Courage

Last month I had the privilege of addressing the Texas School Nurse Organization at their Annual Conference in Houston . It was a wonderful Conference, and I extend a hearty Texas welcome to all of the attendees who asked to receive my Newsletter. While at the Conference, I took the opportunity to attend some of the sessions presented by the School Nurses, and I was struck by the courage displayed by many of the nurses who "do what they have to do" to advocate for the students they are responsible for. This is the kind of courage we don't hear doesn't make the daily news...but it is a core character trait that is vital if we are to be the leaders that others want to follow. To have the courage of our convictions, and stand up for them, even in the face of resistance and opposition, this is the hallmark of a visionary leader.

"Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened."

Billy Graham  

We know courageous leaders when we see them, but what does it take to have that kind of courage in business and health care today? This Newsletter will discuss five characteristics of courage. My guess is you may be more courageous than you think. This is a good time to reflect on these characteristics as they pertain to you, and to share them with your staff when they return from vacation. The five characteristics of courage are:

1.    Optimism
2.    Enthusiasm
3.    Pragmatism
4.    Activism
5.    Industrialism

1.    In order to have the courage to stand up for what we believe, we must be able to look at situations, problems and circumstances from a place of optimism. We have to be optimistic that there is a solution, a way out, a better way to do things. Developing an optimistic viewpoint is putting us half-way there. As a leader, it is extremely important that you have an optimistic viewpoint because people have to follow your lead. Your belief that something better will emerge from everyone's efforts is the glue that keeps a team together. If you want buy-in and commitment from your team, they have to believe that YOU believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Optimism is borne out of a strong faith; faith in yourself, faith in the universe, and if you so believe, faith in a higher power, that things will turn out. A colleague of mine always prays for "this or something better" and then proceeds with optimism towards his goal. He strongly believes that if this goal was not meant to be, something better will emerge for him. His faith that "this or something better" is a reality keeps him on track and focused. He leads his team from just such a viewpoint: if they are committed to the goal he sets out for them, this or something better for all will be the end result. He believes it so strongly, it is contagious. If this resonates with you, you might want to give it a try, first for yourself, then with your team.

2.    Enthusiasm is the energy that keeps you going. When you are optimistic that your vision and your goals will reach fruition, it is easy to be enthusiastic. But what about the times when you hit those obstacles in the road? What happens when you meet resistance and you are faced with budget issues; limited resources; others ideas of how to approach a situation? How do you retain your enthusiasm during those times? I ask this question of you, because I ask it of myself as well. I can be as enthusiastic as the next person, but when I come upon roadblocks, I must admit, I question and doubt myself and the path I am going on. But, what other choice do I have? What other options are there? If there is something I want to achieve, if I lose my enthusiasm and quit, what have I accomplished? Nothing. I have to constantly ask myself "If I give up trying for this, what else will I try for?" If I can't think of another worthy purpose or goal that I can see myself attaining, I have to gather up my enthusiasm again, fight the fires, and continue. I have noticed, however, in the 22 years that I have been a professional speaker, the harder it was for me to attain a goal I set for myself, the sweeter the reward once I achieved it. I honestly don't know if I would have been able to savor the outcome as much, if I had reached it without challenges, frustrations and controversies along the way. Overcoming the challenges and finding another way to reach my goal gave me the self-esteem and confidence to continue on to the the next level. Each success I had in overcoming a challenge, gave me the assurance in myself to aim even higher. None of us like the negatives we have to overcome, but I believe they are the stepping stones we walk on to propel us to the next level, again and again.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Martin Luther King, Jr.

3.    The courageous leader has to be a pragmatist at all times. This may sound contradictory to being an optimist and an enthusiast, but it is not. If fact, you cannot be optimistic and enthusiastic without being a pragmatist. A pragmatist has the ability to have one foot on the ground, monitoring what is going on around him/her, and one foot in the air, visioning and looking at the big picture. A pragmatist understands that no amount of optimisim and enthusiasm can change certain realities that go on in the day-to-day life of a business. Your organization may be going through budget cuts, transference of resources, new people at the top with different ideas, etc. You must be able to keep your pulse on what is happening here and now while leading your staff. You have to know when it is time to re-assess where you are going, change course if necessary, and articulate it to your staff in a positive way. If things are going on in your organization that will negatively impact your staff, they need to hear that from you. You need to tell the truth and ask for input and feedback from your staff if it will help you through a difficult situation. The ability to see things as they are, react to them appropriately and seriously, and still be optimistic about the future is not easy ... IT TAKES COURAGE and honesty to yourself and others. Your staff will be very much impacted by the way you handle yourself in these situations. It is role modeling up front and personal.

"A life isn't significant except for its impact on other lives."

Jackie Robinson

4.    Courageous leaders are activists. They are the ones that get out and do what needs to be done. As I said at the beginning of this Newsletter, the school nurses I have met across the United States are activists. They do what needs to be done to work for the health of the students in the schools your children and my children attend. They lobby at the local and federal levels to keep the funds for school nurses at a level that enables them to keep the students and staff healthy and well. They personally know the community resources they refer their students to and they help the parents understand what is going on with their children in the schools. This they do above and beyond their hands-on caring of the students and staff of the schools. Activism can take many different forms. An activist is a life-long learner, and many business and health care leaders are taking classes to keep up on what is going on in their industry and profession. With the internet available to everyone, leaders are taking classes on-line to help them be the best they can be. Anything you do that assists you in empowering others by your action is activism. An activist gets involved. He/she is involved in issues in the workplace, and cares deeply. An activist is usually the spokesperson of the team, the one who speaks for all the others. Do you have an activist on your team who can aritculate the position of the team to others? Are you that person, or can you think of someone who SHOULD be the activist? This is a good question to discuss with your team.

5.    When it is all said and done courageous leaders are industrialists. They roll up their sleeves and work hard. They do whatever it takes to get the job done, and no job is too menial for them if it takes them to the end result. They never ask their staff to do work they are not willing to do themselves. Many a courageous leader is found in the office at 9:00 p.m. still working when the rest of the staff has long since gone home. As I write this I am thinking back 22 years ago when I started my own business as a professional speaker and consultant. I had no money, did not yet know if I had much talent, I "didn't know what I didn't know" about running a business, but I wanted to get up there and speak. That much I did know. So...I did EVERYTHING myself. Computers were not yet the rage, so I would get up at 4:00 a.m. in the morning to type letters to people I wanted to hire me as a speaker; I typed till 7:00 a.m. when I took a break for coffee and toast, then got on the phones at 7:30 because it was 10:30 a.m back East and started marketing all day. When I finished marketing on the phone, I would start typing letters again. I did everything myself until I got established enough to hire help. But I will tell you this, I never asked anyone I hired to do anything I hadn't already done myself. And it was of great benefit to all of us that I had already done the work. I could answer the questions of my staff better, I could appreciate their input more, and I could be there for them when they got frustrated, as I had been there and done that myself. The beginning years of my business have made me VERY appreciative of where I am now. And I use those early experiences to propel me now when I start doubting myself or questioning the value of what I do. Those years have helped me grow and mature into who I am now. Believe me, I wouldn't want to do them again...but I am glad I went through them. I came across the following poem that speaks to just this issue.

"We are blind until we see
That in the human plan
Nothing is worth the making
If it does not make the man.

Why build these cities glorious
If man unbuilded goes?
In vain we build the world
Unless the builder grows.

Edwin Markham                                               

We have had a lot to think about in this Newsletter. If you have any insights, feedback or experiences you would like to share, please e-mail me at   I would love to hear from you. Any requests to remain anonymous will be honored. If you wish to pass this Newsletter along to a colleague who may find it of value, feel free to do so. If that person would like to receive the Newsletter, e-mail me with the address, and I will put it on my database. If you know of an organization, corporation or association that would benefit from my message, please let me know. Thanks so much, and have a wonderful month.

NOTE to my Newsletter readers in Ventura, CA:  On August 28th I will be the guest speaker at Unity Church in Ventura. I will speak at the 10:00 a.m. Service, and the topic of my talk is "I'm not pushed by my problems ... I'm led by my dreams."  This is a powerful motivational message that I believe you will enjoy and benefit from. If you do attend, please come up and say hello to me after the talk; I'd love to see you again.

About the Author

Barbara Mintzer is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant with over 30 years in business and health care. She speaks from experience! Her how-to programs provide participants with immediately applicable skills and strategies for getting buy-in and commitment from staff and staying on top of their professions in today's competitive and constantly changing workplace. Barbara presents keynote talks and breakout sessions for international, national, regional and state Conferences. She also conducts management retreats and in-house seminars. She facilitates panel discussions and roundtables at the same meeting...a good investment for your meeting budget. To explore the possibility of having Barbara speak at your next event, or work with your staff/leadership team, please contact her office.

Phone: (805) 964-7546
FAX: (805) 964-9636

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