Greek Philosopher ARISTOTLE- Leadership and modern management.

  • eudaimonia
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    Dimitris Mavromatis

How leaders usually reach their decisions? Which are the necessary skills for organizational leadership?
Is there any connection between Aristotle’s philosophy and leadership and is “character” the basis ?
What is a “habit” and why habits determinate successful leaders?

There are hundreds of pages covering the answers on the above questions. In this post I will try briefly to give some main statements of today leading and Aristotle’s ethical practice with acts – habits.
For Aristotle virtue and virtuous character provide the foundation for individuals to deal with the important matters of people. In his sense, leadership is all about character and virtue.

  • Models of leadership are more collaborative, consultative, and shared.
  • In the 21st century “age of knowledge work,” people will be led only as far as they have a voice in where they are going.
  • Leaders must possess the ability to coach and mentor
  • Professional and personal lives blend because of changing technology, work expectations, and environments.
  • Diversity has become a strategic imperative since today’s challenges require diverse perspectives and solutions.
  • Leaders must cultivate an organizational culture that embraces flexibility, adaptability, and rigorous scenario planning.
  • Leaders must acquire critical perspective and the ability to reflect continuously, which translates to understanding the past but also taking a long-term view of the impact of their decisions.

Leading with Character model instilling a principle-centered approach to leadership. Such a leader’s first loyalty is to timeless, unchanging principles of effectiveness, such as integrity and accountability.  Such leaders:

  • Take initiative and responsibility
  • Lead with a high sense of purpose and vision
  • Translate lofty goals into real results
  • Ensure that everyone wins
  • Communicate to produce genuine understanding
  • Value the contribution of the individual and the creativity of the team
  • Balance short-term results with long-term success.

Aristotle’s by locating ethical practice in practical wisdom challenges those who study organization theory to concern themselves with the real choices that people make as well as with those principles by which ethical persons act. The only way human beings can ensure that their acts will be good is for those acts to become habits that guide human conduct.
For Aristotle, a habit is a midway point located somewhere between an undeveloped capability and expert operation.

Aristotle distinguished three habits- intellectual virtues that bring happiness:
Understanding : the habit of first principles, that is, the habitual search to know primary self-evident truths that lie at the root of all knowledge.
Science: the habit of drawing conclusions by demonstration from first principles, that is, the habit of knowing particular scientific findings.
Wisdom: the habit of knowing things in their highest causes that is, ordering all principles and conclusions into one vast body of truth.

Aristotle also distinguished two practical virtues through we can search for happiness:
Art : the habit of knowing how to make tangible things, how to produce some external object; it includes the mechanical, the liberal, and the fine arts.
Prudence : the habit of knowing how to do things, how to direct activity that does not result in tangible products, for example, how to live a good life.

For Aristotle, then, virtue and a virtuous character provide the foundation for individuals to deal with the important matters of people. In this sense, leadership is all about character and virtue, a matter more of art and prudence than it is of understanding, science, or wisdom.

For Aristotle, ethics are not a series of norms .The ethical thing is the practical thing and is comprised of three elements.
The first element of ethical practice is knowledge. This knowledge, in turn, provides a framework for deliberating about the most appropriate technique(s) by which the good can be attained in their organization.
The second element is possession of the skills (or techniques) necessary to achieve the desired good.  To act ethically, individuals must be experienced and proficient in those skills associated with best practice.  Finally the third element is deliberation. To act ethically, one must give careful consideration to those ideas concerning the good and then freely select a course of action from among equally plausible alternatives for which one bears personal responsibility.

There are quite a few leadership training courses dealing with habits of successful leaders, ethical practices, and skills for effective leadership performance. All of them are based on Aristotle’s philosophy .