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A Jewish military Doctor in the Austrian army was sitting next to a Colonel when heavy shooting began. Teasingly the Colonel said ”Just another proof that the Ayrian race is superior to the Semetic one! You are afraid aren’t you?”. “Sure, I am afraid, ” was the Doctor’s answer. “But who is superior? If you, my dear Colonel, were as afraid as I am, you would have run away long ago.” moral courage

It’s about the attitude we freely choose towards our assumptions, beliefs and fears, rather than the thoughts themselves that count and front line managers are less effective without experiencing this leadership reality. The Foundations of Human Leadership is one way to participate in these experiences.

Moral Courage

Courage is both a psychological and noetic capacity, noetic being that dimension you may want to call, human, spiritual or immaterial depending on your beliefs. But either way, it is a dimension that many believe exists, but very few can prove. Courage therefore gets its strength from intellectual (emotional) and spiritual (reasoned) sources.

The first of these capacities, intellectual, is an instinctual reaction, an emotional reaction to life’s situations that urges us to risk injury or death. This is physical courage.

The second of these capacities is a more reasoning attitude which enables us to coolly stake career, fulfillment, our future, on our judgement of what we feel is either right or worthwhile. This is moral courage.

Both capacities are distinct and many people have one or the other, while some have both. To be great we need both.

Do you have the moral courage to lead by understanding as opposed to fear, where you risk being unpopular by saying what you feel is the right thing for someone elses sake? Or to admit that your plans have failed and ought to have been changed, or to tell senior management their strategy cannot be carried out and needs to change direction? How brave is your company, team or function and can moral courage be taught? We believe it can.


Morale is the intangible, hard to define, human capacity to feel a mixture of psychological (emotional) and spiritual (reasoned) commitment to a cause, company or team. To feel like you want to give your last ounce of effort in the service of whatever it is you are doing. This means there have to be certain foundations in place, that I suggest are as follows:

  1. Noetic or spiritual
  2. Psychological
  3. Material

By ‘spiritual’ I mean ‘faith’ in a cause. If you feel that what your organization is working for, is worthy of your effort that you are called upon to give it and that it has a worthy objective, even a noble object, then you will feel morale. You must feel intensely that you are part of it, even a small part and that who you are and what you do really counts in it.

By psychological I mean that you are convinced that the ‘objective’ is really attainable, even if difficult, but not impossible. you must feel that you belong to an efficient group, one in which your efforts – perhaps even your life – is not likely to be wasted and whenever possible, know why you are being asked to do certain tasks.

Finally, by material I mean that it is recognized that improvement maybe needed, that it is being striven for at the best rate it can be and you are still willing to give yourself and make the best of the situation at hand. This means you can have good if not high morale even in the worst conditions. However it is naive if your leaders expect it or take it for granted. They must show you they are doing everything possible to rectify it. That is why research is showing that recipients of work place bullying are less concerned with the fact that efforts may be made to let more people know about anti-bullying policy, as “workers feel highly compromised with regard to confronting bullying behaviour in the workplace, as they believe that they will not be listened to, that the organisation will not reprimand or punish bullies and that their only option is to “shut up and put up” (Hodgins, 2006; Lewis, 2006). 

So if the need for improvement is clearly not recognized, or recognized but clearly not acted upon, it can be said that morale will be low if non existent, with pending consequences adding fuel to the fire.




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