Emergence of philosopher-manager in corporate leadership

NEW DELHI: Translating it to the modern world, philosopher-manager cultivates critical thinking, curiosity and inquiry.

With Apple’s market capitalization surpassing $2.1 trillion and eclipsing the GDP of countries such as Italy, Brazil and Canada, and Amazon boasting a workforce that exceeds the populations of Estonia, Cyprus and Luxembourg with their 1.5 million employees, it is becoming increasingly clear that companies not only play the geo-economic game, but also set the board.

In a world where corporate giants compete with each other in economic power, and where proprietary technological innovations have the power to reshape the fabric of society, one might wonder: why do the principles of philosophy seem to apply only to political leaders? to be?
For centuries, philosophers have fervently debated what are the essential qualities that define a “good” leader. Yet, among the plethora of theories, none has resonated so deeply in the contemporary world as Plato’s philosopher-king. The concept of the philosopher-king formed the central pillar of his vision of his Ideal State – Plato’s utopia in which the wisest rule existed to create a just, virtuous and rational society. This was because Plato believed at his core that until philosophers become leaders, or until leaders become philosophers, there is no path to true happiness, either for society or for the individual.

The idea that philosophers should become leaders arose from Plato’s belief that the philosopher had the requisite knowledge, intellectual insight, and rigorous training necessary to take on the mantle of leadership.

For him, the art of leadership, like any other profession, required a specific set of skills and qualifications. Furthermore, the ultimate goal of philosophical leadership was the holistic well-being and prosperity of the entire population.

Picture this: a business leader who combines the pursuit of profit with an unwavering commitment to ethical principles, one who combines age-old wisdom with modern management techniques, becoming a true embodiment of what Plato would probably have called “the philosopher-manager.”

An awe-inspiring vision, isn’t it? The question, however, is: how do you achieve such lofty ideals? How do you begin to walk this path to enlightened leadership in a business environment where merit seems to be measured solely by results, without regard to righteousness? Fortunately, Plato does not leave us in the dark. He offers us a road map – a blueprint that aspiring philosopher-managers can emulate and embody.

According to Plato, a philosopher passionately seeks and reveres the “ultimate truth,” while tirelessly striving to understand the nature of reality. They possess the ability to distinguish between beauty and beautiful objects. The philosopher’s curiosity goes beyond the superficial appeal of beautiful things and delves into the essence of beauty itself: a timeless, transcendental concept that captivates their intellectual pursuits.

Translating it to the modern world, the philosopher-manager cultivates critical thinking, curiosity and inquiry in his employees. They prioritize continuous learning and constant refinement to remain adaptable in the face of ever-evolving markets, technological advancements and changing customer tendencies. It is imperative that long-term goals and sustainability are prioritized over short-term gains. The ultimate goal of a philosopher-manager should be to harmonize his vision with the pursuit of truth, regardless of the domain in which his organization competes. This pursuit will automatically differentiate him from his competitors.

Furthermore, Plato believed in the inherent transformative power of the philosopher. A philosopher-manager inspires change through a culture of self-reflection and goal alignment. They encourage transparent communication and personal growth and promote balance and emotional well-being. This form of leadership cultivates a values-driven work culture, leading to a motivated, satisfied team and a stronger, more ethical organization.

Furthermore, such leaders encourage moral decision-making and resilience in the face of adversity.

They bounce back from setbacks with an optimistic outlook and a willingness to learn from mistakes. Philosopher managers actively work to develop strong emotional intelligence and deepen their connections with their team members. They drive innovation through creative problem solving and embracing diverse points of view, facilitating the emergence of new ideas and fresh approaches.

According to Plato, although suffering injustice causes physical and psychological wounds, committing injustice causes a much deeper wound: that of the ‘soul’. Given that the condition and strength of our soul determines our potential to become a philosopher, maintaining its purity and well-being should always take priority.

Philosopher-managers recognize this imperative and conscientiously protect their souls by adhering to the principles of justice. They would rather suffer injustice than commit it.

It is essential to note that Plato maintained a cyclical view of history, stating that everything that came into being would eventually degenerate, including the age of the philosopher-kings. He believed that societies undergo a recurring series of birth, growth, decline and eventual destruction. Despite the inescapability of this historical cycle, Plato insisted that there was potential for sustainable human progress.

Philosopher-managers recognize that change is inevitable. They respect the cyclical nature of economic and market dynamics. This allows them to predict and prepare for shifts in their industry or market conditions.

They also focus on constructing sustainable organizational frameworks and fostering cultures capable of meeting both internal and external challenges.

As the world grapples with economic uncertainty and ethical dilemmas, the philosopher-manager emerges as a beacon of hope. The wisdom that Plato imparts may be centuries old, but its relevance in the contemporary context highlights the enduring nature of human behavior.

It serves as a reminder that despite the passage of centuries, technological advances, and shifts in organizational and societal structures, humans and human nature have remained fundamentally unchanged over the past 2,500 years.