What Courageous Leaders Know (That Most Ignore)


Lolly Daskal

Courage is a trait that seems to be in short supply these days, in leadership and elsewhere. People are looking for the kind of bold confident leaders we’ve seen throughout history—leaders who spoke up and stepped forward, who took the risks of true leadership when radical change was required.

Whether you’re in politics, business, education, or any other field, at the top of the ladder or working your way up, you will encounter situations that demand your courage. It won’t be easy. Courageous leadership requires strong principles and tremendous tenacity.

If you have what it takes to be a courageous leader, here are the things you need to do:

Confront reality head on. Take off your rose-colored glasses and face what is actually going on. Get the facts, because only when you know what really happening can you lead the situation into a more successful, effective place.

Allow for failure. Courageous leadership is open to bold new ideas—which means you have to allow for mistakes. The road to success is almost always paved with failures, so allow yourself to fail—and encourage your team to fail as well—so you can learn and grow from the experience.

Say what needs to be said. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I wish I had the courage to say what I want to say.” I always respond by saying, “Give it a try.” Be bold and say what needs to be said.

Encourage people to think for themselves. Many leaders have good ideas and enjoy sharing their wisdom with others, but it’s the courageous leader who encourages people to think for themselves and who listens to their thoughts.

Hold yourself accountable. Let people know they can count on you. Accountability means you take on responsibility, deliver on commitments, and own up to your own mistakes and limits. When you hold yourself accountable, you model that behavior to those around you and help establish a culture where it’s the norm.

Make decisions and move forward. Far too many environments foster a fearful approach to making decisions, but nothing great ever came out of fear. Express courageous leadership by encouraging decisive action that keeps things moving forward. Avoid the “paralysis of analysis.”

Stay on course even when it gets tough. Especially if you’re taking bold actions and encouraging risks, you’ll eventually bump into the challenges of tough situations. When you fall, get back up. When you fail, try again. Tenacity is a huge component of courage.

Give credit to those who deserve it. Be the courageous leader who isn’t fearful to take less of the credit and give the lion’s share to those who deserve it.

If it’s your wish to be a leader who wants to change the world, leave a mark, make a difference, you need to start now to mold yourself into a courageous leader. Find and nurture the qualities that make you brave and bold. Courage isn’t inborn; it’s learned.

Lead from within: The natural response when people say we need a courageous leader is to run from the notion, but life’s greatest leaps occur when we resist the impulse to run.

What teens are asking Roo, Planned Parenthood’s new sex-ed chatbot


Teens have had nearly a million conversations with the chatbot, which answers burning questions about bodies, sex, and relationships.

By Elizabeth Segran

If you’re a teenager growing up in the United States today, it’s hard to get accurate information about your changing body or your sexual health. Only 24 states mandate sex ed, and of these only 13 require that the information conveyed be medically accurate.

So if you’ve got a burning question, there’s a good chance you’ll turn to Reddit or YouTube for answers. “Searching for answers is a healthy behavior,” says Ambreen Molitor, senior director of the Digital Product Lab at Planned Parenthood. “The problem is that the answers you get back might be too general, and sometimes they might be incorrect.”

Planned Parenthood is here for America’s teens. In January this year, the organization launched an online chatbot called Roo, targeted at 13- to 19-year-olds, that gives them accurate answers to questions about their bodies, sex, relationships, and more. The bot is equally equipped to deal with basic biological issues like “What happens during puberty?” or emotionally charged queries like “How do I get over a crush?” And it is clear through the process that the chat is completely confidential.


Check out all of our 2019 Innovation by Design winners and honorees here.


Roo’s answers are both informative and nonjudgmental. One of the most commonly asked questions on the platform is “What’s the right age to have sex for the first time?” In response, Roo says: “It’s all about picking the right age for you, which might be totally different than the right age for other people. It might seem like everybody you know is having sex, but that’s definitely not true. The average age when people have sex for the first time is around 17.”

As you take in the answer and ponder your next move, a GIF bubble pops up that says, “You do you.”

[Image: courtesy Work & Co]

Meeting teens where they are

Over the last few decades, Planned Parenthood’s expertise has been in providing reproductive health resources to women between the ages of 18 and 40. But the organization believed that being a resource to teens of both genders is important, especially since sexual education is so scarce in the United States. This lack of knowledge is one reason that teen pregnancies are much higher in the U.S. than in many other developed countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, where medically accurate sex ed is part of the educational curriculum in schools. In 2017, 5% of all births in the U.S. were to teen mothers.

Molitor’s team at Planned Parenthood worked with digital product agency Work & Co, based in Brooklyn, New York, to develop Roo. But before they could get started building the platform, they spent months getting into the minds of American teens. This involved studying current research and having conversations with students at a high school in Bushwick, Brooklyn. These teens also had a chance to test out early prototypes of Roo.

It was clear that to be effective, Planned Parenthood would need to meet young people where they already were searching for answers: the internet. And today’s teens spend most of their time on a smartphone, so the final product had to be mobile-friendly. “Teens check their phones between 70 and 95 times a day,” Molitor says. “And most of the time they are texting on some platform.”

[Image: courtesy Work & Co]

All of this led to the creation of Roo, a chatbot that lives on the Planned Parenthood website. The interface of the bot is designed to feel like having a casual chat with a friend. Except, Molitor says, it was very important for it to be clear that there was not another real person on the other end of the service, because teens wanted to feel anonymous. “Teens have a faster response time and are more willing to open up to a bot, because it lowers the risk that there is some sort of bias or judgment on the other side,” says Molitor.

And since today’s teens are highly aware of privacy, Roo makes it clear to the user throughout the process that none of their personal data is stored and that all questions are anonymized. “Teens are very aware about what is happening in tech, and they are very educated about what platforms store their data,” she says. “Many of them don’t even want an app on their phones.”

Planned Parenthood marketed Roo to 13- to 19-year-olds on Snapchat and Instagram. The organization also released a series of videos on YouTube called Roo High School that explained how the platform worked. In the nine months since Roo launched, users have had nearly a million conversations with the chatbot. More than three-quarters of users have been people of color, a demographic that typically is underserved when it comes to sexual education.

What teens want to know

Before launching publicly, Planned Parenthood piloted Roo with teens, who had more than 7,000 conversations with the bot, which served as training data for the AI. At this point, Roo has an accuracy rate of about 80%, which means that in the vast majority of cases, the user will ask a question and the bot will both understand it and have an answer ready.

In the instances when the bot doesn’t have an answer, it will refer the user to other reliable sexual education resources. Then, a content strategist from the Planned Parenthood will review the question to provide an answer to a future user. “Every day, we’re training the bot with new questions,” Molitor says. “Questions evolve as teens respond to trends or things that are happening in the media.”

Planned Parenthood’s data shows that users are often concerned about where they fit in the spectrum of normalcy, asking questions like “Is my vagina normal?” Or “What will happen to me if I masturbate too much?” Sometimes, they are looking for very direct answers to biological questions like “When are you no longer a virgin?” And “What’s the best method of birth control?” And sometimes, they are trying to deal with tricky emotional scenarios like “How do I come out?”

Roo is trained to provide the user with even more resources if they need it. For instance, in the case of trying to come out, Roo offers immediate answers, but also possible follow-up questions to ask, like “Do I need to come out to my doctor?” Then, it also links to other websites, like Q Chat Space, an online discussion group for LGBTQ+ teens.

[Image: courtesy Work & Co]

Molitor found that today’s teens are very concerned about other people’s feelings and boundaries when it comes to sexuality. Some wanted to know about how to make sure they had their partner’s consent before engaging in sexual activity. Others wanted to know how to make sure they weren’t expressing value judgments that would make another person uncomfortable. “They want to value what other people are feeling or what their identity is,” she says. “We wanted Roo to feel like a safe space to explore these questions.”

While many parents are concerned about their teens as they go through puberty and begin exploring their sexuality, Planned Parenthood’s experience with Roo suggests that today’s teens are generally enlightened and progressive when it comes to sexual culture. Many are aware how important it is to respect other people’s bodies, and they are more accepting of different sexual orientations and expressions than previous generations. For Molitor, this was encouraging. “This is amazing to see in teenagers,” she says. “They’re mature, and they’re striving to be better versions of themselves.”

No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy


AFTER THE TERRORIST ATTACKS on September 11, 2001 and on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Major General James Mattis needed to connect with every member of the 1st Marine Division. He writes, “I limited myself to one page they could carry with them, a message reconciling ferocity toward the foe with abiding concern for the innocents caught on the battlefield.” He signs off with a phrase he made the motto of 1st Marines: “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.” It was adapted from a remark attributed to the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla, “No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me whom I have not repaid in full.” His letter to the Blue Diamond: MARCH 2003 1st Marine Division (REIN)

Commanding General’s Message to All Hands For decades, Saddam Hussein has tortured, imprisoned, raped and murdered the Iraqi people; invaded neighboring countries without provocation; and threatened the world with weapons of mass destruction. The time has come to end his reign of terror. On your young shoulders rest the hopes of mankind. When I give you the word, together we will cross the Line of Departure, close with those forces that choose to fight, and destroy them. Our fight is not with the Iraqi people, nor is it with members of the Iraqi army who choose to surrender. While we will move swiftly and aggressively against those who resist, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion for people who have endured a lifetime under Saddam’s oppression.

Chemical attack, treachery, and use of the innocent as human shields can be expected, as can other unethical tactics. Take it all in stride. Be the hunter, not the hunted: never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down. Use good judgement and act in best interests of our Nation. You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon. Share your courage with each other as we enter the uncertain terrain north of the Line of Departure. Keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead.

Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit. For the mission’s sake, our country’s sake, and the sake of the men who carried the Division’s colors in past battles—who fought for life and never lost their nerve—carry out your mission and keep your honor clean. Demonstrate to the world there is “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy” than a U.S. Marine. J. N. Mattis
Major General, U.S. Marines

Unethical Leadership: Selective Respect


September 11, 2019 By Linda Fisher Thornton

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We’ve seen selective respect too often. Beyond harming the people who are disrespected, it also destroys trust, and leads to chaotic environments and fear-based cultures. Even though we’ve all seen selective respect in action, we may not have had the vocabulary to describe why it’s wrong (beyond calling it mean or inappropriate). This week I’m digging in to those details. 

I define “selective respect” as doling out respect only under certain circumstances. It is not an ethical leadership behavior since it applies the ethical value of respect conditionally and not universally. 

Examples of Selective Respect in Action:

  • Teachers picking on certain students while encouraging others.
  • “Cool” kids teasing less popular kids while being chummy with their friends.
  • Employees repeating ethnic jokes or otherwise demeaning certain groups of people.
  • Public leaders treating people in their groups (political, racial, religious, gender, etc.) kindly while alienating and attacking others. 

The times when respect is applied may be predictable (certain people or groups are predictably respected or not respected) or unpredictable (who is treated respectfully varies from moment to moment).

Important Ethical Principles Selective Respect Violates:

  • Respect for Others (the ethical principle is not respect for certain others, it is respect for all others)
  • Respect for Differences (this requires moving beyond the “like me” bias)
  • Trustworthiness (only some people can trust you to treat them well)
  • Moral Awareness (shows a lack of awareness that respect is a minimum standard for ethical leadership and must be universally applied)
  • Ethical Competence (selective respect is a sign of failure to stay ethically  competent)
  • Ethical Thinking (believing that some people are “not worthy” of respect is unethical thinking)
  • Modeling Expected Behavior (selective respect shows others the route to an unethical path, multiplying the error and the harm it generates)

Are you tired of people talking about toxic leadership behaviors as different “styles” or different approaches to leadership, without saying what really needed to be said? When you see leaders using selective respect, call it what it is – unethical leadership.

Baby body parts trafficking company StemExpress admits to keeping babies ALIVE so that whole, beating hearts and heads can be harvested


StemExpress, a company that we previously exposed for its involvement in trafficking aborted baby body parts along with Planned Parenthood, is back in the news – and the reason why is sure to disturb you. According to reports, the company’s CEO admitted during a recent court hearing that Ste

Source: Baby body parts trafficking company StemExpress admits to keeping babies ALIVE so that whole, beating hearts and heads can be harvested