David Brooks wrote today on the metacognition deficit. It reminded me of the Jesuit examen – that regular assessment of the mind and soul that burned away the personal BS and convenient denial. If we have mental courage we can confront the weakness in our own thinking; it is the ability to face unpleasant thoughts. Brooks says that mental courage involves “conquering self-approval by staring straight at what was painful”.
Peter Drucker, writing of managerial courage, emphasized the bravery required to go through with logical decisions. He said, “there is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” In managing and leading, overcoming this metacognition deficit is a risky thing. Even if we bring great efficiency to the task, we waltz with cowardice if it should not be done at all.
Furthermore, that pesky courage bit can arouse the mob. Ginning up our own personal moral and mental courage is hard enough. Doing it with a team or a corporation raises the hackles of every disaffected follower; these followers can quickly form teams of their own called mobs. If not already present, triangulation can accelerate mobbing. When a triangle is created by adding one or more power figures (supervisor, boss, board, etc.) who join with the mobbers to pick on the mobbee, implicit permission has been given. “Many of the victims are managers and supervisors, attacked or undermined by unscrupulous subordinates or peers — often with approval by higher management”. The mobbing literature is growing.
It is not enough simply to be courageous and face down what is painful, whether habits, ideas or faces. Mental courage involves living in the long view, fully aware that you as the mobbee, may have to depart. The alternative involves the necessity to live with compromise – a blurry place at best.
This assumes you have examined your own thinking and finding it weak, shoulder the responsibility to pass unpleasant thoughts on to a potential mob.
Now it’s a matter of mental and moral courage.
 Davenport, N., Elliott, G. P., & Schwartz, R. D. (2005). Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, 2002 Revised Edition. US: Civil Society Publishing.