The Biology of Courage and How to Use it to Create Impact | Episode 46

Season #3

Taking a moral stance on social impact and environmental issues as a business owner and a business leader can be scary when your customers' and clients' loyalty and peer support are at stake. It's easier to get along than to stand out in a crowd. And we're programmed to blend in and not draw attention to ourselves.

For example, the bystander effect causes us to fall back on a natural human instinct to go along with a group or leader—even if we don’t feel right about it—for a sense of safety, status, and belonging and "ethical fading" causes the ethical implications of our acts to recede from our attention when we focused on a transactional objective and are under pressure. 

But this has consequences. 

New people with fresh ideas and creative solutions often join organizations that then - intentionally or unintentionally - douse their creativity and passion as these organizations dictate the way these new employees are allowed to engage with others in the organization. In organizations with a steep hierarchy, where a small number of people hold large amounts of power, organizational integrity and effectiveness get eroded a typical outcome when people feel like they cannot take a moral stand on an issue they care about.

So, how do you as an individual and a business owner develop the moral courage to take risky ethical positions? 

One way would be to channel any stress you feel from the discomfort into community, caring, and connection with others, which in turn gives you the moral courage to take a stance on social and environmental issues that are important to your social impact business. 

Research and the questions to ask in the downloadable PDF are in the resources below.


Shelley Taylor's Tend-and-Befriend Theory in the Handbook of Theories on Social Psychology

Ann Tenbrunsel's page on the University of Notre Dame

Tend-and-befriend response and why it's important

PDF download "The Biology of Courage" with 3 questions