Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Leader wanted: Courage required

Written by: on January 22, 2024

Written against the backdrop of the COVID19 pandemic, Rethinking Leadership: A critique of Contemporary Theories by Annabel Beerel succeeds in its stated goal. In her opening pages, Beerel stresses the need for “sharp leaders who are cognitively savvy and emotionally astute” to lead us into the future.[1] She writes to emerging, learning leaders in order to sharpen their “inner and outer game of leadership,” as she explains in her chapter on the psychology of leadership.[2] Her themes are reminiscent of Simon Walker’s front stage vs. back stage[3] and the inner strength discussed by Edwin Friedman [4], whom she even references several times.

However, the theme that I found the most thought-provoking was Beerel’s discussion of courage. Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of courage happens when a leader ventures into unknown territory. Confronting an uncertain future always requires bravery. But the need for courage doesn’t stop there. The internal work necessary to lead well requires immense courage. “Self-examination demands brutal honesty and an ability to face one’s fears…. It takes courage to look at what lies behind our fears and to understand what causes them… It means working with one’s fear not denying it, avoiding it, or suppressing it. Courage means facing one’s fears head-on.” [5]

In addition to courageous introspection, leaders need what I will call ethical bravery. Think back to a time when you found yourself in an ethical gray area. Maybe the stakes were high or maybe the situation was relatively trivial. Maybe it was difficult to do the right thing in the face of pressure or maybe for you the ethical choice came naturally. The personal anecdote that comes to mind happened a couple of years ago. I had received a subsidy from the city to fund a community event. At the end of the evening as we were cleaning up, one of the city representatives told me that I should have padded the event budget, bought extra snacks and drinks, and then kept them to feed my family. I remember being so surprised that I was a bit speechless, but I eventually found my voice. I’m curious, what would you have said in a similar situation?

Leaders also need courage to be seen as different, even if that means voicing unpopular opinions. “It takes courage to risk one’s own safety, psychological, economic, or physical, in the service of a principle or a life-giving action.” [6] A friend recently shared a story of how he risked his safety, psychological and economic, when he voiced his support of an unpopular position. A manager of an IT team in a large company, my friend was affected by a decision made based on an extremely progressive stance on a social issue. I can’t recall the details, so I probably won’t do this anecdote justice. What I do recall is my friend’s genuine angst and discomfort with the decision that was made. As a follower of Christ, he felt compelled to speak up even though he genuinely feared that it would cost him his job. Here is a leader who works in an environment completely different to my own context, and I admire the way he works out his faith in the challenges of everyday life.

If my previous two examples were of leaders who required courage in the secular world, let us remember that it takes no less courage to stand up to abuse in the church. Sadly, I could cite countless examples of abuse in the church even in recent memory. I caught a brief glimpse of this when another Anglican church in our district back in the States went through an investigation. From a leadership perspective, I observed the heartbreak and confusion of my own rector and associate rector, a husband-and-wife team, who had been instrumental in pastoring and coaching the person who turned out to be a predator. They were not in any way implicated in the abuse, but they were still plagued with guilt and self-doubt over their team’s missteps. Here Anabel Beerel’s words are a valuable reminder: “Above all, leaders need to be self-aware and to practice ethics. This means they need to be mindful, reflective, questioning, and thoughtful about their choices and the impact of their behaviors and decisions.” [7]

In critiques of leadership, “there are some uplifting and hopeful stories, in most cases, we are confronted with leadership failures.”[8] I’ve chosen these examples above to remind myself that courage and bravery in leadership can make an impact in our world. In that spirit, I’d welcome your “uplifting and hopeful” anecdotes. When have you seen courageous leadership that made a positive impact?



1 Annabel Beerel, Rethinking Leadership: A Critique of Contemporary Theories (New York : Routledge, 2021) 2.

2 Ibid., 110. 

3 Simon P. Walker, Leading Out of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership, The Undefended Leader Trilogy. 1 (Piquant, 2007). 

4 Friedman, Edwin H. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (10th Anniversary, Revised Edition), Church Publishing Incorporated, 2017. 

5 Annabel Beerel, Rethinking Leadership: A Critique of Contemporary Theories (New York : Routledge, 2021) 112-113.

6 Ibid., 113. 

7 Ibid., 118. 

8 Ibid., 373. 


About the Author


Kim Sanford

7 responses to “Leader wanted: Courage required”

  1. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

    Hi Kim,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. It provided a different perspective of the book. I was not able to focus on her writing on courage as I was sifting through my own leadership challenges and seeking our solutions specific to them. I was struck by this statement that you shared, ““Self-examination demands brutal honesty and an ability to face one’s fears…. It takes courage to look at what lies behind our fears and to understand what causes them… It means working with one’s fear not denying it, avoiding it, or suppressing it. Courage means facing one’s fears head-on.” YES!!!! I needed this exact message at this exact time. Thank you.

  2. mm Russell Chun says:

    Lest we forget, it takes courage to leave ones country and to head off to a bastion of Atheism (France). Courage, plus tremendous love for those that your are ministering too. You one of my Heroes of Faith….

    What follows is a prayer request…

    Today Stephanie Flohr age 70 arrived in Odesa (Одеса) Ukraine. She will minister to widows and seniors (Stephanie lost her husband 3 years ago). I asked her if she had purchased her body armor and she said she has Ephesians 6. Wow.

    Nate Gerber leaves 9 Feb. First to GoodSports Slovakia (Prievidze) then through Poland, to Lyviv where I have asked him to attend a Ukrainian Sports Conference. Then Kharkiv to work with Redemption Church initially to deliver food (Samaritans purse) to elderly in three villages. Too old to move, these folk on the border with Russia are in survival mode. Moving however is something to hard to contemplate.

    On Saturday I speak to Penuel (where Jacob wrestled with God), they have 300 children and need another field.

    When I look at all of the Leadership resources we cover I wonder how they could help me “lead” in these circumstances in Ukraine?

    Моє лідерство зараз перевіряється. Батьку, дай мені мудрість. (My leadership is being tested now. Father, give me wisdom.)


  3. mm Pam Lau says:

    Thank you, Kim, for asking the question: When have you seen courageous leadership that made a positive impact?

    I work with several leaders who serve in Christian higher education who face daily the pressures of the world to change the mission of the university. Three leaders in particular come to mind when I hear about how they are living and leading with the tensions of LGBTQPlus communities. This blog is not a place to expand on the tensions and the challenges they face. However, I can attest to the fact that the most courageous stay in honest dialogue, risk their reputations, feel uncertain about the future, set their egos aside, and pray to God fervently for wisdom.

  4. mm Dinka Utomo says:

    Hi Kim!

    Your article is very interesting because it places an important emphasis on the aspect of courage in leadership. This is an insightful perspective.

    In the context of your ministry, what things or situations require the most aspects of courage in your role as both a servant and a leader?

  5. Jennifer Vernam says:

    Hi Kim-

    My first thought when I read your question about where I have seen courageous leadership was actually back to leaders that I had 18-20 years ago that first created a space for me to be authentic and transparent. I had come from an environment that reinforced an “us vs. them” mentality. I will probably never forget when I realized that the new order was one of transparency and openness. What a breath of fresh air that was for me!

    Thanks for the question.

  6. Whoa! I felt that post! Thank you for your amazing writing style. I love your humble intelligence! How is the rector and associate rector doing? Are they still ministering?

  7. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    Ethical leadership! Courageous Leadership. I think about our cohort in your question of courageous leadership. I think it took a lot of courage to lead the church in America during pandemic. Standing up with their own convictions while keeping their congregation in mind was a huge challenge. thanks for your post!

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