image credit: University Archives Digital Image Collection

Joseph Reed, Pennsylvania lawyer, officer and statesman during the Revolutionary War, wrote this in a report to his wife when morale was low for Americans, and danger was high:

The justice of our cause, the hope of our success, and every other circumstance that can enliven us, must be put into the scale against those of a contrary kind, which I allow to be serious…My honor, duty, and every other tie held sacred among men, call upon me to proceed with firmness and resolution…My country will, I trust, yet be free, whatever may be our fate who are cooped up, or are in danger of being so, on this tongue of land, where we ought never to have been. (p. 201, 1776, David McCullough)

Though morale was low and danger was high, Reed was firmly planted on what he knew needed to be done. And he didn’t just continue to provide leadership to save his own hide. He had the future in mind.

“My country will, I trust, yet be free, whatever may be our fate who are cooped up…”

More often than not, though, I’m afraid most people lead with their own goodwill in mind. They lead to make sure they keep their job, move up in the ranks, and maintain the status quo. When danger rises, instead of courageously standing up and fighting, they slink back into their den, all to ready to maintain comfort. Instead of creating ripples that will extend on, they let the waves pass them by.

Leading Forward

The best leaders lead with the next generation in mind. They know that the decisions they’re making today will have great impacts on the next generation, paying their leadership forward. They realize that in the process, they’ll at times have to take the fall for what they know to be right. They know they’re sometimes just setting the stage for someone else to come behind them.

What you do will have impacts on the future. Even if what you do is cowardly.

It’s time to be resolute. Stand for what you believe in. Courageously take steps and help others to do the same. And when danger and failure arises, give them a swift Austin Powers Judo chop.

I’m thankful for men like Joseph Reed. Men whose bravery still resonates today.

* image credit: University Archives Digital Image Collection