Are you pusillanimous?

I recently reviewed a book that I had read in early 2006 that was about integrity in leadership. As I scanned the book, it brought to mind some words that I thought would be great to share here.

The first is pusillanimous (pyoo-suh-lan-uh-muhs), an adjective, that means lacking courage, acting cowardly. Someone who is pusillanimous could also be faint-hearted or timid. This could refer to a situation as simple as approaching your boss to ask for a raise. Depending on your boss, you could definitely be faint-hearted or timid.

Or it could refer to anyone in a situation that would require her to do something death-defying like saving a child from a burning building. Entering a burning building could make someone feel very pusillanimous.

A person could be pusillanimous when in the company of someone who is outspoken and scurrilous. (See the previous post for the definition of scurrilous!) It doesn’t really matter what the situation is. If someone acts cowardly, faint-hearted, or timid, they are pusillanimous.

A person could be pusillanimous if someone else exerts great puissance. Puissance (pyoo-uh-suhns) is a noun that means power, might, force, or influence. A boss has great puissance over employees because he has the say if they continue to have employment or if they get fired. Some lobbyists have great power or puissance over senators. Parents sometimes exert puissance (hopefully the influence kind and not the forceful kind) over children to get them to do their chores.

You wouldn’t feel pusillanimous if someone was giving you an encomium. Encomium (en-koh-mee-uhm) is a noun that means a formal expression of high praise or eulogy. At retirement parties, the boss usually gives an encomium to the retiree. (Well, if the person was a good worker!) Soldiers who receive the Purple Heart might get an encomium from their leader — or possibly even from the president of the United States. Funerals are a time when people give encomiums. Too bad the dead person can’t hear it . . .

I hope that in situations needing moral courage or great rectitude (blog back in January!) that you are not pusillanimous – that you have puissance to do the right thing. And, that you give great encomium to your children, to your employees, to people who deserve recognition and praise.


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