“Can you hand me a can of tomato soup?”

I remember a story about a little girl who was afraid of the dark. She lived in an old farmhouse where they kept food in a pantry that to her was dark and intimidating. Her mother, preparing dinner, asks her to get a can of tomato soup out of the pantry. She peered behind the curtain leading to the pantry that had no light or windows, being scared she ran back to her mother empty-handed.

“Where’s the soup?” asked her mother. The little girl, shaking, replied, “Its dark in there, I’m afraid.” Three times her mother sent her back, and each time she went as far as the curtain and ran back without the soup.

Finally, her mother said, “Don’t be afraid of the dark, Jesus is in the dark, he’ll protect you.” Slowly the little girl returned to the pantry curtain, pulled it back and fearfully said, “Jesus, if you’re in there would you please hand me a can of tomato soup?”

It’s a funny story and while most people outgrow their fear of the dark as a child, most adults still lack the courage to face the unknown or uncertainty. Jack Welch, one of the 20th Century’s top corporate leaders as CEO of General Electric, spent most of his time developing leaders.

Jack constantly drilled the potential senior leaders and managers on what separates great leaders from the average is the “courage” to make the tough calls decisively, with fairness and absolute integrity, especially “in the dark” and when the outcome is uncertain.

Courage will permeate and transform everything you do. It’s the crucial seasoning in the leadership skill mix God has blessed you with. Take away courage from a leader and you are left with a functionary manager who can only enforce the manual.

Rules and regulations are needed to keep order. However, they are not the tools of leaders who create the future, they are the tactics of managers who only respond to today’s challenges. There are no manuals for the future. You need guts to enforce the rulebook, but you need courage to create the future and they are not the same.

Someone once said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” People are inspired by leaders who are brutally honest about the risks and obstacles, but go for it anyway. Adversity energizes and motivates courageous leaders, but it quickly quenches the fire in leaders who lack courage.

There is a fine line between faith and fanaticism and only courageous leaders walk that line. Weak leaders follow in the shadows, a much safer place. When hitting short-term difficulties, remember, it’s your long-term goals that create the courage to go on. Seldom does life “hand you the tomato soup,” you have to go into the unknown and get it, that takes courage.

“If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength.” Proverbs 24:10