Evaluating Historical Views of Leadership
University of Phoenix
Leadership Theories and Practice
September 06, 2014
Evaluating Historical Views of Leadership
How does a civilization attain the most effective leadership? More importantly what is considered effective leadership and who developed the theories surrounding it? These questions are debated through the ages of postmodern and modern civilization. Bass (1974) wrote that, "from its infancy, the study of history has been the study of leaders" (Wren, 1995, p. 50). Four of the godfathers of what is considered modern leadership theory are Plato, Aristotle, Lao-Tzu and Machiavelli. Over the course of this analysis, the leadership theories of each of these titans will be evaluated. Each view contains commonalities and disparities which offer conflicting perspectives on the complex topic of leadership throughout the ages of modern society. The goal is to broaden these views with critical evaluation, vetted scholarly sources and well-reasoned judgments. The conclusion arrived at will offer heighten awareness at the age old highly debated question; what is effective leadership? Plato vs Aristotle
Plato and Aristotle were both titans of Greek thought during the fourth century BCE Athens, and both shared similar experience and backgrounds. Partly this was because Plato was Aristotle’s teacher. Takala the author of Plato on Leadership states “Ancient Greece (400 B.C.) has been regarded as the home of systematic administrative thinking; it has been seen as the place where the Western administrative thinking was born” (Takala, 1998, p. 787). This fact cemented Plato’s title of godfather of modern leadership theory that presented a systematic political and administrative model linking what life could be in an ideal state (Takala, 1998). There are many parallels in Plato’s rhetoric that mirror contemporary leadership debate. The most glaring is the emphasis on education and a class based system that focuses on what he termed, just social order. A” just social order” is defined as “one where order and harmony are maintained by each class of citizens carrying out the tasks for which they are suited and not interfering with the work of others” (Takala, 1998, p. 791). Plato in his most famous work the Republic speaks to the importance of virtue derived from knowledge. His top three credos for a unified and virtuous state were: 1. Know the good is to do the good.
2. All the virtues boil down gaining wisdom or what he paraphrased the ”unity of the virtues” (Takala, 1998). 3. In order to become happy in a new state virtue must be present. The second titan of the three discussed is Plato’s protégé the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle had many views that mirrored the views of his mentor the most glaring being the dependence on education for laying the foundation for a modernized society (Kodish, 2006). Where these two minds disagree comes down to the action needed to secure leadership. Aristotle poked holes in all of the three points above given by Plato is these fundamental ways: 1. Just knowing the good was not enough for Aristotle. The concept of free will was relatively new, and he failed to see the need to practice being virtue. 2. For this reason, although wisdom is the highest form of virtue, it is by no means the key to possessing all virtues. In other words, Aristotle denies the unity of the virtues. 3. Finally, Aristotle thinks that although virtue is necessary to the good life, it isn't sufficient. That is to say a person can be virtuous but still be unhappy. In particular, does a person truly need good fellow citizens to achieve happiness (Kodish, 2006). The most general difference Aristotle and Plato held was a difference of values surrounding the human condition. Aristotle saw the positives in society, and therefore prescribed freedom and equality; Plato saw the negatives and prescribed various...
References: Gerald, W. P. (2005, April 9). A look at thoughts from Tao-Te-Ching. Kingston Whig, 1-48. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/352713307?accountid=458
Kodish, S. (2006). The Paradoxes of Leadership: The Contribution of Aristotle. Leadership, 2: 451, 451-458. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1742715006069175
Machiavelli, N. (2006). Qualities of the Prince. New York Bedford/St Martin: in World of Ideas.
Takala, T. (1998, May). Plato on Leadership. Journal of Business Ethics, 17, 785-798. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25073123
Wren, T. J. (1995). The Leader’s Companion Insights on Leadership Through the Ages. New York NY: The Free Press.
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