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Do you need a dose of leadership courage?

Having the courage to speak up on an issue or cause is your right and freedom. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service

This past week, on a couple occasions, I was reminded of what my husband calls "leadership courage." The first instance happened while attending my 20-year high school reunion and walking the halls of Grand Forks Central High School. I didn't truly know what a leader was when I was in high school — and I certainly didn't have the courage I wished I had.

A few days later I traveled to Dakotafest in Mitchell, S.D., with our AGWEEKTV team and AGWEEK magazine editor, Leah Larson. As the rain fell outside, I sat in on the Farm Bill Forum, which included U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune, Rep. Kristi Noem and three South Dakota farmers and ranchers.

Something Rounds said struck a chord with me: "Your stories are just as important [as anyone else speaking on the panel]. We need to hear from you, even on the small issues."

Having the courage to speak up on an issue or cause is your right and freedom. It takes leadership courage to say or do the right thing when it might not be popular at work, in your community or in an organization. Courage might not win you votes, more business or friends but it's fundamental to the quality of a leader.

If you care about your community, county, state and country, step up, speak out and engage on the issues most important to you. Leadership courage doesn't require a prestigious title or a fancy house. It doesn't require an audience or being in the media spotlight. You don't have to be loud or even all that polished. Leadership courage doesn't look the same for everybody. It can even get uncomfortable at times.

Leadership courage does mean you must be bold and willing to put yourself out there. It means you must be out and about and engaged.

You can start by attending a public meeting in support of a cause you hold dear. The next step is preparing before the meeting by drafting a statement and sharing why the matter is important to you. Following up with decision makers via email or a phone call helps bring your involvement full circle.

Your example just might even encourage others to step out and embrace their own leadership courage.

Never have I been more aware of the importance of leadership courage. As a result, I'm being strategic about where I can engage most effectively on issues important to my family, businesses and freedoms. I hope others are doing the same, even if we're on different sides of issues.

If you think your voice doesn't matter, you're wrong. Don't let intimidation or a louder voice silence you. Be empowered by our freedoms to speak out and participate on all kinds of issues in all kinds of places.

We only have to look at daily news to be reminded this is not a freedom that's shared around the world, and it's not a freedom we should take for granted. Others have sacrificed for us to have the freedom to courageously serve, speak and lead.

There is a time to be silent. There is a time to lead and a time to follow. But today is the time for you to step out in courage.

Share your voice. Lead by example. Have courage to contact your elected representatives, or even run for office. No issue is too big or too small for you to stand firm and speak out.

Two decades ago, I didn't know what leadership courage looked like for me. Today, my leadership courage most often involves rural and ag issues. I'm grateful for those who blazed a path ahead of me to follow. I saw your leadership courage and learned to step out in my own way.

Who is watching you now? You might never know, but your example will shine.