Deconstructing Courage: Lessons from a Warrior

Deconstructing Courage: Lessons from a Warrior

Read time: 4.5 min.

Welcome to Inner Frontiers for Outer Impact, a weekly newsletter where I explore leadership through the lens of self-leadership, with a deep dive into Mindset, Courage, Resilience, & Innovation.

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Inner Frontiers for Outer Impact! This Memorial Day issue will highlight LTG (Ret.) Hal Moore’s exceptional leadership in combat and his actionable insights on courage.

In today’s email:

Leading from the front: Leadership lessons from the Battle of Ia Drang

Inside the mind of a leader: Exploring the beliefs that shape courageous decisions

Moore’s wisdom: Reflective questions for modern leaders

Leading from the front

LTC Hal Moore & SGM Basil Plumley the day after the Battle of Ia Drang Photo credit: War History Online

On November 14, 1965, LTC Hal Moore’s 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, was heavily outnumbered and surrounded by North Vietnamese forces at Landing Zone X-Ray.

As the enemy closed in on the American position, Moore realized the situation was dire and that his men needed inspiration and leadership to hold their ground. Without hesitation, he moved to the front lines, exposing himself to enemy fire and rallying his troops. His presence on the battlefield boosted morale and helped his soldiers maintain their resolve in the face of overwhelming odds.

At one point during the intense firefight, Moore received word that one of his platoons was pinned down and in danger of being overrun. He immediately gathered a small group of volunteers and personally led a counterattack to relieve the beleaguered unit. Despite the immense danger, Moore charged forward, engaging the enemy and providing cover fire for his men. His actions allowed the platoon to withdraw to safety and regroup, ultimately saving countless lives.

Throughout the battle, Moore continuously put himself in harm’s way, moving from one position to another to direct fire, call in air support, and tend to the wounded. His courage under fire and his unwavering dedication to his soldiers were instrumental in his unit’s successful defense of its position from November 14-16 against numerically superior North Vietnamese forces.

Deconstructing Courage

Moore’s leadership and courage at the Battle of Ia Drang set a powerful example for his men. His actions demonstrated that:

True leaders stand alongside their troops, even in the most harrowing circumstances

Courage and selflessness are essential qualities of effective leadership

In his book, We Were Soldiers Once… and Young: Ia Drang—The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam, LTG (Ret.) Moore spoke about what his leadership in action required. Here are a few insights that will hopefully provoke reflection on your own leadership.

💪 Courage is not the absence of fear
There is a difference between courage and bravery. Courage happens when you feel fear and uncertainty, but you face it with resolve. Bravery is when you confront fear and pain directly, but you don’t necessarily feel fear.

LTG (Ret.) Moore acknowledged his fear in battle. He said, “There is always fear in combat. A leader must not let it control him.”

Reflection: What fear(s) do you need to acknowledge?

🧠 Mindset unlocks courage
Moore offers insights on how leaders can prevent their fears from controlling them when he said, “Fear is the reaction; courage is the decision.” He’s talking about mindset here.

Let’s explore 3 mindsets (beliefs) that empowered him to be courageous:

1️⃣ “There is always fear in combat.” His recognition that fear was normal in a combat situation allowed him to relate to it differently. What you see as exceptional can be intimidating. What you view as normal becomes manageable. His beliefs normalized his fear, which then put him in a position to work through it with the tools he already possessed.

Reflection: How might normalizing fear help you manage challenging situations?

2️⃣ “A leader must not let it control him.” LTG (Ret.) Moore’s statement indicates a strong internal locus of control. This empowered him to recognize that his reaction to fear was natural, but how he related to it was a reflection of his mental constructs. The meaning that he assigned to that fear, based on his underlying beliefs, shaped his decision making. He ultimately determined that it would not control him.

Reflection: What beliefs underlie your decision making in fearful situations?

3️⃣ “Fear is the reaction; courage is the decision.” He understood what his reaction to the stimuli would be. He also understood his agency to decide his response to that stimuli. He chose courage – a decision to move forward and withstand the danger and fear that he faced. His self-awareness and clarity of beliefs enabled this response.

Reflection: What does choosing courage look like in your leadership role?

I could write chapters about this topic, but I will stop here and just encourage you to learn more about LTG (Ret.) Hal Moore’s life and leadership. I had the honor of meeting him and SGM (Ret.) Plumley in 2003, and it is a privilege I have never forgotten.

A final question for you: What will you do with the questions above?

If you engage with them meaningfully, you will lay the foundation for cultivating more courage.

Moore’s Wisdom

How I Can Help You

🚀 CEO Coaching Programs: Are you a CEO who wants to skillfully navigate uncertainty, lead confidently, and drive results? Developing greater leadership capacity in 4 key domains (Mindset, Courage, Resilience, & Innovation) will empower you to do all three.

Book time here to learn about the bespoke 1:1 coaching programs I deliver. During this call, we will talk about your challenges, your goals, and how we might partner to fully unbound your excellence.

🎤 Speaking Engagements: My mom can attest to the fact that I LOVE to talk. 😂 Now, I put that talent to work delivering talks on Mindset, Courage, Resilience, & Innovation.

A few past clients include KraftHeinz, Amazon Women @ Payments, PAHEi, & the Panamá Chapter of the International Coaching Federation (this talk was delivered in Spanish).

If you are interested in having me speak at your event, please fill out this form.

Until next week,


P.S. Your greatest leadership tool is your own self-mastery.

Reference: Moore, H. G., & Galloway, J. L. (1992). We Were Soldiers Once… and Young: Ia Drang—The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam. Random House.

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