Whether it’s contempt or denial – fill the world with courage!

A middle school teacher encourages his students to join him in making fun of one of their classmate’s spelling mistakes. The leader of a global super power chooses not to condemn dark forces when they resort to terror and murder. The events differ in time and space, but the common denominator is that they are both clear signs that the world needs courageous leaders who dare to disagree. Courage that you, I, we need to spread throughout the world. 

It was the start of the autumn term, and a whole flock of middle school kids were back at their desks after a long summer vacation – with heads full of summer memories and legs full of mosquito bites, sunburn and the feeling of muscles well-used. Just as it should be. The teacher, Mr. Andersson, assigned the first homework: an essay about how the summer had been and what they had done. There were mixed reactions about the homework assignment, but one student, Lasse, was really looking forward to writing the essay.

Lasse had a gift for writing, but couldn’t spell. Nevertheless, that night he sat at his kitchen table filling pages and pages in his notebook with vivid descriptions of salt water swims, football matches, crab fishing and cold, adventurous nights in a tent. A few days later Mr. Andersson had finished going through all the essays and asked to read one of the stories for the class. There was total silence in the classroom as he read Lasse’s words with amused drama. Page after page he read, pointing out each and every misspelling with sarcastic oversimplification – all with the intent of getting the class to laugh. To join him as he laughed, sometimes so hard that it echoed in the classroom and out into the corridor. They laughed at Lasse’s entire summer.

After that, Lasse no longer wanted to write. The words died on the page as he continued failing to get the letters right, and eventually his hand would shake every time he tried to hold a pen.

Many years have passed since Lasse wrote down his misspelled summer memories. And both Lasse’s notebooks and Mr. Andersson have long since been laid to their final rest. But this style of “non-leadership” hangs on stubbornly, like a cancer, all over the world and at all levels. From the small company manager, right up to and including the world’s most influential women and men.

For me, this is clear proof that the world today is in urgent need of courageous leaders. Courageous leaders who have seen and learned from history and who do not need advisors to help them distinguish between right and wrong. Courageous leaders who can lead people, businesses and entire nations down a path where they can develop and grow, rather than shrink and divide. Courageous leaders who are not run by their fears and who do not laugh at our attempts to express ourselves, whether through beautiful, misspelled summer memories or by questioning reminders that past atrocities should never – must never – be repeated.

The solution, as I see it, is spelled ‘We’. If we begin with ourselves and strive to be the leaders we truly want to be, then together we can make a difference. But the need is urgent. We cannot wait for someone else to pave the way.

Let’s help each other to fill the world with courageous leaders.