“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” Robert Louis Stevenson – Leadership
How should you show confidence?
The only thing worse than being afraid is for others to see you that way. Fear diminishes a person’s ability to lead others. It causes hesitancy, doubt, and an inability to make decisions when they matter most. Courage, on the other hand, inspires the opposite – faith, hope and an unbreakable will to overcome setbacks. But, maybe revealing our fears and being vulnerable shows a different kind of strength which gives us self-confidence and influence over others.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts with Dr. Terri Daniels, a middle school principal in Northern California, for a conversation about leadership using the Teach Different 3-Step conversation method.
Image source: Picryl
Dan Fouts 0:00
Hello, Steve and Dan Fouts here. We’re veteran educators who have created the Teach Different conversation podcast to inspire all of us to think deeper, listen with more intention, and understand each other better. If you’re a parent, educator, or anybody who wants to think in new ways to build real understanding about what’s important in life, and to help others do the same, then you’ve come to the perfect place.
Welcome everybody to the Teach Different conversation podcast. We are eager to get going with a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson, poet, essayist, and novelist. It’s a fantastic quote about leadership. We have Terri Daniels with us tonight. She’s a principal in California, and she’ll be introducing herself when she first talks about the claim of the quote. For those unfamiliar with the Teach Different method, we’re going to go through it. We’ll start with a quote from Stevenson, and talk about the claim of the quote by interpreting it in ways that make sense to us. Then, we’re going to push against the claim. When we push against it, we’ll be building our critical thinking skills. This is really important for adults and students, to see the world from different perspectives. This method gives people practice doing just that. We’ll end with an essential question that gets everybody thinking deeply about the conversation once it’s over. I’m going to give the quote from Stevenson; it’s a really good one on leadership. “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” Terri, what do you think? Welcome to the show, by the way.
Terri Daniels 2:15 – Claim
Thank you, Dan. I guess I’m supposed to introduce myself first. Hello, everyone. I’m Dr. Terri Daniels, and as Dan said, I’m a principal at a middle school out here in Northern California. I’ve been in education for a very long time. I taught for 25 years in both elementary and secondary schools, and I hold credentials in special education, social science, and English.
This quote really speaks to me as a leader, a principal, and also just in my profession, and personal life. When I hear that quote as a leader, I think it’s important to not override what drives us to be able to achieve and accomplish the goals that we have set for ourselves. We experience all human emotions, those that may be perceived as weaker to outsiders, fears that can come into place about the decisions we have to make or the dangers we may face, and how we conquer those emotions. I look at the claim as keeping those fears under wraps, to hold on to those, even though they’re there, but to let our courage and goals lead us forth to make good decisions, and hopefully, create better outcomes. That’s how I interpret the quote, and that’s my claim.
Steve Fouts 4:12
Stay strong no matter what’s happening. From a leadership perspective, you have to project strength and show courage. Terri, like you said, it’s not about not feeling those emotions. It’s strategically not allowing those fears to come out and show that you have anxiety. If you have followers, or people looking up to you, how does showing anxiety and fear affect them? It’s contagious, and it’s not going to help anybody. Be strong, put on that strong face, and get through the tough times, so that people can look up to you. You can inspire them with your strength and your resilience, and hopefully, they’ll be strong and resilient because of you.
Dan Fouts 5:16
I’m thinking of dropping this quote in front of high school students, middle school students, or even elementary school. This is a very accessible quote for all age groups. It would be interesting for the kids to talk about it. What does courage give you as a leader? Why do people look up to people who are brave or courageous? What is that quality that is so magnetic to others? I think they would share some interesting answers.
Terri Daniels 6:04
I agree. I think asking for students’ input on the quote would shine a perspective on how they are thinking about it. As adults, whether it be teachers, or in my case a principal, hearing the student’s perspective can be really telling to see if they’re thinking along the same lines as we are. To me, that would be very interesting and impactful.
Steve Fouts 6:38
Definitely. Terri, one of the drills of Teach Different is to circle words in the quote that might inspire a mini conversation. I would definitely circle courage, because I think the word courage is understood differently by people. Some people may think courage means that you never experience fear. You just jump off the cliff, and believe your parachute will work. That’s courage. Some other people might say, courage is when you actually have fears, but you overcome them. I’d like to hear from the kids about what courage means to them. What’s their definition? Do they know anyone who is courageous? Why would you say they’re courageous? This is getting at the same thing you were saying, Terri.
Dan Fouts 7:45
They could talk about their experiences. When did they overcome fears to do something, and they were courageous as a result. Steve, going with that definition of courage of overcoming fear. They could come up with some interesting stories. How did they do it? How were they able to overcome that fear in order to do what needed to be done? If you were to pitch this quote in front of a group of young people, they’d have a lot of personal stories to share.
Terri Daniels 8:27
I agree. I’m sitting here pondering what you said, Steve. Wondering if the students interpret courage as you never have fear. This quote can help them understand that fear is a natural emotion that people experience. We face it in different capacities, and that’s natural, but what if the act of overcoming that fear, or facing that fear, is what makes you courageous and stronger? When you were talking about leadership, you said, putting on your strong face. That’s the part that shows, but you may have all these different experiences going on and you’re feeling them in your body. You may be having these anxious feelings and sweaty palms, but the fact that you go out and do it, shows others your strength as a leader. Within yourself you can feel that strength and your own leadership skills growing from that experience of facing those fears and overcoming them.
Steve Fouts 9:55
I’d like to hear what fears kids have. This is one of those conversations that could be emotional, depending on the mood of the room, and the number of kids. What do they really fear? Get beyond the fear of tigers, bears, and things like that, and get into public speaking fears, or the fear of losing friends. It could be very interesting to hear about those fears, and what fear means to them.
Dan Fouts 10:41
Why would they want to keep them to themselves? What is it about that fear that makes you want to keep it private? Many have probably never shared that in a public setting, and may feel uncomfortable sharing it. If you have a comfortable atmosphere in your class, with trust and respect, then you might get a snowball effect where people start offering what they’re afraid of, and those who don’t really want to share with other people, might share. Having other kids listening could be pretty powerful. It would connect people.
Terri Daniels 11:27
Oh. Sorry, Dan. I was just going to say, even in that light, the same can be said about the side of courage, right? Steve, you gave the example that they’re courageous because they jump off a mountain and they trust that their parachutes are going to open. There are a lot of really bold things that people may do that stand out as courageous, but there are subtle things, as well, that are courageous. Overcoming the fear of public speaking takes courage, too. Like you said, Dan, when students are sharing personal experiences about things they fear, like the fear of losing their friends or having their friends turn against them, somebody else in the room might say, I had that experience, too. This is what I did. That can snowball as well. This quote can lead to some powerful, and possibly life changing, types of situations by the conversations that it inspires.
Steve Fouts 12:50
Absolutely. I agree. I think you’re going to hear a lot of kids talk about the fear of failure, if they’re willing to admit it.
Dan Fouts 13:03
Kids sit with their fears. They don’t have a public forum to share them. This conversation provides that public forum. For many kids, this will be the first time they’ve ever confronted one of their fears in a public setting. To your point, Terri, it can be amazingly powerful.
Steve Fouts 13:27
That’s a perfect segue to the counterclaim. Read the quote. “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage.” If we were to follow the advice of the quote, students shouldn’t be sharing their fears. Let’s push against this quote, and think about a counterclaim. What is another way to look at fears and courage? Terri, maybe you can kick it off. Do you see a way of looking at the world that is just as valid as the claim, but may contradict it?
Terri Daniels 14:12 – Counterclaim
What comes to my mind is that when I was growing up, maybe even when you guys were growing up, it was not acceptable to share your fears or things that could be perceived as weakness within society. It was less acceptable to open up and say, I have these fears, or to appear weak. However, by opening up and sharing fears, it can make you a stronger person. The quote is talking about holding on to those fears, but showing your courage. I would say a counterclaim would be to open up and discuss your fears. That is being courageous. That is a way to show courage, by sharing your fears and confronting them.
Steve Fouts 15:30
That’s courage. Only strong people are able to look someone in the eye and say, I’m really anxious about something here. I’ve got a lot of fear about this, and here’s why. That does not sound like a weak person to me. That sounds like a self-reflective and self-aware person. That can also inspire leadership qualities. People can look up to that, and want to be led by someone who knows themselves and is comfortable sharing their fears. It can also empower followers to do the same, to be more authentic, more honest with who they are, whether it’s good or bad, whether it’s a weakness or a strength. Helping people feel comfortable being themselves and not trying to be perfect is a great leadership quality. I said a lot there, but I was just building off your brilliance, Terri.
Dan Fouts 16:49
Yeah. Go ahead, Terri.
Terri Daniels 16:55
When you first shared the quote, Dan, and I spoke on it when I gave my claim, it seemed pretty evident that you hold on to your fears, and go out and be tough. You don’t show it, and you lead with that strength. Now, as Steve and I were just discussing, I’m thinking that’s almost a facade. Am I really being strong when I do that, or is it more effective to be open about it? That, in itself, shows strength. As Steve was saying, that’s more self-reflective, self-aware, and not really a weakness at all.
Dan Fouts 17:49
Vulnerability is the word that comes to my mind. When you’re fearful of something and you acknowledge it, you’re being vulnerable. In a leadership context, and maybe Terri, you can speak to this a little more, when a leader is willing to be vulnerable, and express their fears in an open forum in an authentic way, followers look at that and say, Wow, if they have the courage to express their fears, maybe I can do it, too. Then, you’re leading people who are not putting on facades. They’re being their authentic self. You’re probably making better decisions and running a better school. Can you speak to that a little bit, Terri?
Terri Daniels 18:50
I can, but something else popped in my mind, and I don’t want to lose it. I’m looking at what true courage is. When I taught high school, I worked in an area with a lot of gangs, and a lot of gang members were in my classes. We had a really good relationship, and I remember having conversations with some of the kids. We would talk about whether people followed you because they feared you, or because they respected you. There’s a difference. They would get confused by that question. They thought that if people were afraid of them, that meant they respected them. We’d have conversations similar to this, even before Teach Different was a model. Just because someone fears you doesn’t mean that they respect you. Just because they fear you doesn’t mean they really want to follow you, or be part of what you’re doing. Fear does not lead to that. Fear doesn’t necessarily lead to courage, it’s that facade. That just popped in my head when you were talking, Dan. It could be taken in so many different directions.
My doctorate is in administrative leadership. Studying the different styles, and the different types of leadership, there is definitely something to be said about letting yourself be authentically known. It’s okay to let people know that we are all human. Obviously, we’re going to experience those emotions, and it’s okay. Now I wouldn’t necessarily recommend wallowing in that, and letting the fears overcome you, but acknowledging that they exist and facing them. Sharing that with people can only set you up as a role model, and will help them to also be able to confront those issues.
Steve Fouts 21:14
I have to share one philosopher, right now. Plato has a definition of courage that I’m going to share. Honestly, I don’t know how this fits into this conversation, but I feel like if I share it, maybe you two will have an idea of how it might fit. Plato said that courage is the knowledge of what you should and shouldn’t fear. Plato says that courage is a knowledge. You don’t have fear, or not have fear as a leader. If you have courage, then you know exactly what you should fear, and what you shouldn’t. I’m just throwing this out there, because that’s a layer. I don’t know where to go with that. Feel free to comment?
Terri Daniels 22:18
Plato is not here for me to ask some clarifying questions. I might challenge whether courage is knowledge. I would push it to what we do with that knowledge. That’s kind of what I would want to do, if I had the opportunity to discuss this further. Knowledge is great. It’s a stepping stone. I would say that I get that part of it, but I would question if we don’t do anything effectively with that knowledge, then is it really courage or courageous?
Steve Fouts 23:09
It has to involve action.
Dan Fouts 23:13
Terri, you’re getting the Fouts twins philosopher thing here. Aristotle thought that courage was the midpoint, the golden mean between being a coward and being reckless. It is based on what you do. That’s what courage is. That’s aligned, I think, to what you just said. I also think it’s more of an action rather than a knowledge.
Terri Daniels 23:40
I would agree with that, Dan. It’s interesting that you brought in that piece, because earlier I was thinking there’s got to be a balance. I’m kind of switching back to the claim now, because this could go a little bit too far one way or another. Wallowing can be an acknowledgement of the fears. Arrogance could also play into courage. I would say that courage needs to be free of arrogance, because that spoils the courageous action. In my mind, you don’t do courageous things to get attention. You do them because you are genuinely overcoming and dealing with a difficult situation. I think that balance is more in line with my understanding of it, or my thought process.
Steve Fouts 25:14
Yeah, maybe decisiveness as opposed to arrogance. When we’re talking about an expression of courage, it’s something that is helpful. It’s hard to argue against that one. People need decisive people around them, and that’s one of the aspects of leadership. Well, Plato and Aristotle are in here.
Dan Fouts 25:45 – Essential Question
Yeah, we actually have them in this conversation as well. This was really good, Terri. I think we built on the claim very well, and had a cogent counterclaim that made just as much sense. Plus, we tapped into a little bit of philosophy. This is a really important leadership quote. This is something that you could use with your administrative team. I also think it could work really well with students. How do they process their fears and what do they think fear and courage mean? How they negotiate those things in their own lives is important.
We’d like to end with an essential question. We always prepare one, but most of the time, the kids come up with the very best questions in these conversations as a natural, organic process. But, we like to get teachers started. Here’s one, how should you show your confidence? Think about this in a leadership setting. How should you show your confidence? Should you show it by revealing your fears, or should you show it through the decisiveness and certainty of your decision making?
Thank you so much, Terri, for being on the podcast. We appreciate your thoughts. It’s been great working with you these last few years. We look forward to continuing our relationship with your school and helping your faculty. Thank you so much.
Terri Daniels 27:33
Well, thank you for having me. I always enjoy it. I’ve probably spoken more to Steve than you, Dan, but I really liked the bantering, as well as the philosophical discussion. Thank you for having me tonight. I can say you guys are definitely brothers.
Steve Fouts 27:57
Thank you. We can’t do anything about that.
Terri Daniels 28:02
That was really fun you guys. Thank you so much.
Dan Fouts 28:05
Steve Fouts 28:06
Terri Daniels 28:07
Okay, you too, guys. Thanks. Have a good night.
Dan Fouts 28:11
Thanks, everybody. We hope you’re walking away feeling energized by some great ideas, and are confident that conversations like this are possible. With just a little bit of planning and a 3-step method. Make sure you go to teachdifferent.com to learn more, and check out our library of conversation plans, where we’ve compiled dozens of quotes, each with their own claim, counterclaim, and essential question. Good luck. And don’t forget to teach different with conversations and make a difference every day.