Today’s post is the featured article from the May 2013 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription

They were the perfect companions for Dorothy … the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion. They were great friends throughout her journey. You might say they were not only who she needed … they were also precisely what she needed. What I didn’t realize, until today, was that Dorothy’s friends were also a perfect formula. In some ways, I might even say they were actually three-in-one.

While I loved all three of them, the Lion was my favorite. You might have had your favorite too! I was reminded of the Lion as I was recently thinking about courage. The issue of courage was on my mind because, if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times, “having courage is a critical element of any executive building a culture based on intentional core values.” I thought, for any leader, that building value with values takes patience, persistence … and especially courage.

But I must admit … I was wrong!

Or at least I had it backwards. Building and leading a culture built on intentional personal and organizational core values doesn’t take courage … it gives courage! That’s why Dorothy’s friends were the perfect formula … and why she met them in the perfect order. You may have realized this all along, but my eyes were recently opened to this when I decided to seek-out a precise definition of courage. One definition described it this way: The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear. It is a pretty simple formula.

Mind + Spirit = Courage

You could say that the Scarecrow’s brain and the Tin Man’s heart were critical elements in enabling the Lion to find courage. If you think back to the movie, you might recall numerous scenes where the Scarecrow and the Tin Man were looking after the Lion … trying to encourage him! In the end, it would be the sum of all three that would provide precisely what Dorothy needed. It seems that the yellow brick road was a pathway … a roadmap … that every effective leader needs to follow.

Just follow the yellow-brick road!

Notice it doesn’t say lead down the yellow brick road. It says follow. To find what Dorothy was searching for, she first needed to personally “discover” the experience by following down the path that would reveal it to her. It makes for a very practical analogy of what every insightful leader must do.

Unlike, many other organizational frameworks that executive teams bestow upon their “troops” … this one must first be personally lived. Dorothy had to walk the path with her friends. She couldn’t stand back giving directions and wait for everyone to come back with the solution.

When it comes to intentionally building a culture based on meaningful values … the leader has to allow themselves to be vulnerable and willing to personally walk the path. Fully utilizing their brain and their heart they will discover at their core exactly what they know they need. They will find who they are … and in doing, so courage will find them.

Like Dorothy and her friends, every leader will face what seems to be overwhelming odds. Evil, temptation and others in power with misguided motives will make the journey more difficult. But, with what the brain and the heart provide, the leader will persevere with courage.

Ironically, Dorothy discovered she had what she needed all along.

So does every leader. It is already at their core simply waiting to be discovered. As I sit deep into the writing of ROI: Return on Integrity (release March 2014) I am more convinced than ever that the most impactful, untapped, strategic resource at any leader’s disposal is already within them … and within the organizations they lead. But, like Dorothy, they have to be vulnerable enough to personally take the first step down a long and winding road.

The Yellow Brick Road was unlike any complicated organizational development methodology. And notice how Dorothy didn’t ask about the proof of others who had gone down this path before her. She just took the first step forward without comparative metrics and measurements … simply reminding herself … just follow the Yellow Brick Road. Follow the Yellow Brick Road!

While it wasn’t complicated, it certainly wasn’t easy.

Neither is the path to building value with core values. It starts with each C-level leader taking the first vulnerable step … followed by using their brain and heart to discover their personal and organizational core. Once discovered, there will be no reason to look for courage. As each leader personally follows the path, an ever-increasing sense of courage will find them. Ironically, it is there, that every leader finds it was their vulnerable willingness to personally follow … that gives them exactly what they need to truly lead.