Corporate Leadership, LinkedIn Series

What CEOs and Presidential Candidates can learn from Ancient Greek Philosophers

Reposted from Dan Hesse's LinkedIn series on Executive Leadership and Corporate Responsibility. The following was published April, 7, 2016. 


Forbes interviewed me about my unexpected recommendation for leadership reading, which was also featured in a new book, The Books that Changed My Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians and other Remarkable People. My choice was one I read in college (which I still refer to, full of highlighted passages and marginalia), The Republic, by Plato. 

The Republic contains great lessons about business and political leadership.  It’s a very early study on the subject (around 400 BC) about who should lead, and Plato and Socrates also observe that the same qualities that make a person just, and a strong leader, make the organization or state function well.  Women are as capable of ruling or leading as men if they are given the same educational opportunities. To lead a life in pursuit of “the good” (knowledge and truth) is worthwhile in and of itself (vs. to receive rewards on Earth or in an after-life), as only the good and just person can be happy. 

An organization should choose its “best” person (the most virtuous, just and knowledgeable) to be leader. Our founding fathers created our country on some of Plato’s principles, and they practically “drafted” George Washington to be our first President because they viewed him as the “best” person. The idea of open party conventions where the most virtuous, or best, is drafted is an interesting idea whose time may have come again. 

In this post: What CEOs And Presidential Candidates Can Learn From Ancient Greek Philosophers | Forbes, April 2016