Tests come in all shapes and sizes. There are homework quizzes, pop quizzes, exams, and finals. When it comes to tests of Courage, many leaders believe they can wait for finals and pull out a passing grade or even an “A”. But if we have we have never taken those preliminary tests, how can we be so sure we will pass the final exam?

Tests are really progress checks. They check to see how much we have grown since our last test. The results of those tests give us some indication of what we need to work on moving forward as well.

A leader’s Courage is tested regularly. A leader in combat, law enforcement, or any other first responder situation, may see their Courage tested frequently in life or death situations.  But for most of us, our Courage is tested in more subtle ways.

The tests may seem like no big deal, like a pop quiz, but how we do on those tests predicts how we will do when the final exam rolls around.

Small Tests of Courage for Leaders

The list that follows is a list that mimics the smaller tests we take in school. They may not be final exams, but they predict our performance when those big tests come. Do we have the Courage in the small tests?

  1. Homework Quiz:  Admitting your mistakes to your spouse or your child.
  2. Exam:  Confronting a difficult peer about his/her attitude.
  3. Homework Quiz:  Letting your son suffer the consequences for his actions.
  4. Pop Quiz:  Correcting someone who gives you too much credit for your team’s success.
  5. Exam:  Stopping a friend from driving after they had 3 drinks at happy hour.
  6. Exam:  Retracting a lie you told earlier and asking for forgiveness.
  7. Exam:  Tell your boss what you really think about her idea versus staying quiet.
  8. Pop Quiz:  Calling your boss about a mistake before he finds out on his own.
  9. Pop Quiz:  Taking immediate action when a difficult employee causes a problem.
  10. Exam:  Admit you haven’t done a good job on these and other test of Courage and commit to making progress.

The Bottom Line:

The final exams in life are the big tests of Courage that determine whether you and the people you lead pass or fail. Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about what we will do when the final exam comes around.  But, it is the small tests of Courage that prepare us for the finals.

Most of us would not tell kids that homework, quizzes, or exams are unimportant. Our experience has proven to us that the better we do on those smaller tests, the better we will do on the final exams. 

We should stop justifying our lack of Courage by telling ourselves the small tests are no big deal. Every time our Courage is tested, it is a big deal!

Our preparation in the small tests will determine if our Courage is ready when that final exam rolls around.


What are some other Courage pop quizzes that a leader faces?