EDITORIAL: True Grit is the vital ingredient for today

EDITORIAL: True Grit is the vital ingredient for today - It would not surprise me if many MT readers disapprove of our cover feature on mental toughness this month. It's a bit of a counterblast, and the headline, 'If you think you're hard enough', smacks of the testosterone-fuelled bar-bragging of the yobbo. It goes against the grain of a lot that we have stood up for and praised in management theory and practice over the past few years.

by Matthew Gwyther, Editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It would not surprise me if many MT readers disapprove of our cover feature on mental toughness this month. It's a bit of a counterblast, and the headline, 'If you think you're hard enough', smacks of the testosterone-fuelled bar-bragging of the yobbo. It goes against the grain of a lot that we have stood up for and praised in management theory and practice over the past few years.

Stefan Stern's article suggests that the touchy-feely days of emotional intelligence are over. The time has come to leave Daniel Goleman to his soul-searching conversations with the Dalai Lama and acknowledge that capitalism is red in tooth and claw, and that soft skills, although nice to discuss in business school HR seminars, never got anyone anywhere in the real world.

Those who are going to succeed, especially in a terribly competitive environment, are the toughies willing to run through a brick wall to get what they want. (And not before they've trampled over a few of the rest of us en route.)

But even if it's not the whole truth, there is something in Stern's argument.

Business is ultimately about natural selection, with all that this implies - including eventual extinction for the weak. One is left with a nasty suspicion that, in the current climate, nice guys (and gals) come last.

I don't believe Philip Green, for example, got where he did today by manifesting an abundance of soft skills, and I doubt if he does too. He probably thinks Empathy is the latest fragrance from Chanel. Success in business has always been about a combination of opportunism, drive and not a little selfishness, the concomitant of ambition.

If there's one activity for which you need true grit, it is travelling around in Britain. Survival of the fittest applies whether you're stuck in a nine-mile tailback on the M62, prevented from using Stansted airport for 24 hours because a few centimetres of snow have fallen on the surrounding countryside, laid up in a broken-down Virgin cross-country service or gridlocked in London's traffic maelstrom.

Our transport system in Britain is a national disgrace that makes us the laughing-stock of Europe and even raises amused eyebrows in the developing world. Its deficiencies already hold us back and will eventually do our economy serious harm. Transport has also been, thus far, a pretty poor advertisement for privatisation, or even the new application of public/private partnership. We are in danger of descending into a Darwinian nightmare not seen since the bad-taste Sly Stallone movie Deathrace 2000 - the blurb for which ran: 'In The Year 2000 Hit And Run Driving Is No Longer A Felony. It's The National Sport!' MT offers a few solutions to getting around in our 'Travel Smart' feature.

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