“It is curious that physical courage should be common in the world and moral courage so rare”. Mark Twain
Courage refers to doing consistently what we feel is right despite personal risk. It can often mean facing the fear of the unknown, conflicts of interests and the counter-intuitiveness that tough decision making often brings. A lack of courage in our lives may result in us holding back from standing up for our beliefs: we may give up too easily or we may become fearful. Our psychological safety and risk-avoiding culture sometimes may prevent us from acting in a way which we feel is right. On the other hand, too much courage may push us stubbornly towards a distorted perception of the facts and lead us to make a wrong decision.
Ethical leaders like Ghandi and Mandela are regularly cited as showing moral courage, as are whistelblowers who, at professional and sometimes personal risk, uncover what they see as unethical practices. These individual acts have most recently been led by whistleblower Edward Snowden who felt the need to speak out about what he sees as the NSA’s ungovernable global appetite for eavesdropping because, as he states: “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things” 1
So, how do our occupational groupings compare as displaying the most courage?
Law Enforcement tops the list. Other high scoring occupations include Banks, Telecoms, Politics and Oil & Gas. At the lower end, Arts and Crafts don’t appear to want to ‘rock the boat’, closely followed by Advertising and PR, then the Unemployed, News/Media, Retail, Education and Legal.
So what does it all mean? There are occupations where truth is fundamental, such as information about a toxic loan, a technical fault or a gas leak. If truth isn’t shared then usually a bigger disaster will be the result. In occupations where expectations for moral behaviour are high it is also worth noting how problematic it can be for people to be morally courageous, as it largely depends on the influence exerted over them in their daily professional activities. For the many creative professions at the bottom of our Courage list, it appears they find it highly challenging to face conflict on the one hand and come up with creative ideas and new solutions on the other.
Our moral courage is strongly linked to our integrity – the way in which we wish to live our lives, which shapes the kind of society we want to live in. When faced with a situation that we feel is wrong, our moral courage drives the action we are prepared to take to address it.
How courageous are you? What is stopping you from “doing the right thing”? Join over 80,000 people from over 200 countries around the world and find out more about your values and how you make decisions.
1 ‘Edward Snowden: more conscientious objector than common thief’ The Guardian Editorial, Monday 10 June, 2013
Also by Professor Roger Steare
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