What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader Book Summary - What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader Book explained in key points
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What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader summary

Alison Reynolds, Dominic Houlder, Jules Goddard and David Lewis

Learn how to use philosophical principles in your personal and work life

4.3 (139 ratings)
28 mins

Brief summary

What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader offers insights from philosophers like Aristotle and Kant to guide leaders in making ethical, meaningful, and effective decisions. It provides practical solutions to modern leadership challenges.

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    What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader
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    Key idea 1 of 10

    When it comes to improving workplace satisfaction, feelings can be unreliable guides. 

    When do you feel best at work? 

    Chances are, you’ve probably talked to someone in HR about it. Smart workplaces care a lot about this issue. After all, research shows that employees work better when they feel better. The holy grail is for employees to feel self-actualized. Self-actualized is a fancy term for employees feeling that they’ve fulfilled their potential and used their talent. This is why it’s become standard management strategy to gather personal feedback. Seems logical, right? 

    Unfortunately, such assessments are often misleading. One of the reasons they don’t offer reliable feedback is that feelings are hard to judge accurately. Imagine that a big financial firm is trying to figure out whether its new open-floor plan is promoting the cooperation and community it was hoping for. Employees are asked things like “Does using a large common space make you feel more connected?” or “Are you happy with the change?”

    While the intention is good, there are a lot of problems with basing research on this approach. How people feel and how they report feeling are affected by all sorts of biases. First off, our perception changes over time. For instance, maybe you’ve always worked in a private office, and so you report hating the common workspace the first month, only to change your opinion later.   

    Your answer can also be altered by trivial factors, like being interviewed by someone to whom you’re attracted. Finally, there’s no ideal timing for asking such survey questions. Say you had a great conversation with a coworker in the common space on your way to the interview. Maybe you’d felt so-so about the space before, but because you’ve just had such a positive experience, you report loving the new space.  

    The other major problem with using these kinds of assessments for devising strategy is that even if we could assess workers’ feelings accurately, they alone wouldn’t tell us enough. The fact is, feeling self-actualized is very different from being self-actualized. That’s because when we use the desire to feel good as our only guide, we aren’t aiming for anything really substantial. Our feelings are important, but they aren’t the only important things.

    As we’ll see, philosophy argues that the good life is less about feeling good and more about pursuing things that are good for us.

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    What is What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader about?

    What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader (2019) explains how we've lost sight of some of the most important aspects of leadership, and it presents helpful philosophical perspectives to get us back on track. Drawing from both ancient and modern philosophy, the authors outline simple yet powerful approaches to rethinking strategy, management, and communication. And what’s even better is that these philosophical “hacks” aren’t just for CEOs. By using these thought experiments and insights, we can all flourish at work and outside of it. 

    What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader Review

    What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader explores the application of philosophical concepts to leadership practices. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its accessible language and relatable examples, it bridges the gap between philosophy and real-world leadership challenges, making it highly useful for leaders at any level.
    • By examining the philosophical underpinnings of leadership, the book offers fresh perspectives on how to inspire and motivate teams, helping leaders become more effective in their roles.
    • Its thought-provoking insights challenge conventional wisdom and encourage critical thinking, allowing leaders to expand their horizons and develop a deeper understanding of their own leadership styles.

    Best quote from What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader

    Fairness should be regarded as the first virtue of a well-led organization, and leadership as the skill of creating just such an organization. 

    —Alison Reynolds, Dominic Houlder, Jules Goddard and David Lewis
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    Who should read What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader?

    • Business leaders wanting to take their leadership skills to the next level
    • Managers who have already tried all the psychology hacks and need something more
    • Anyone interested in philosophy

    About the Author

    Alison Reynolds is an award-winning faculty member at Hult Ashridge Executive Education and a codeveloper of the Qi Index, a leading tool for tracking organizational adaptability. 

    Since leaving a successful career in the private sector over 25 years ago, Dominic Houlder has taught at London Business School. 

    Dr. Jules Goddard teaches at the London School of Business and Finance, and is the coauthor of Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense. 

    The former Head of Computer Science at London Metropolitan University, David Lewis has developed KPMG’s "change management” practice, founded his own consultancy company, and currently teaches at the London Business School. 

     

    © Alison Reynolds, Dominic Houlder, Jules Goddard & David Lewis, 2019. This Summary of What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader is published by arrangement with Kogan Page.

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    What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader FAQs 

    What is the main message of What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader?

    The main message of What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader is that leaders can learn valuable insights from the wisdom of great philosophers.

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    Is What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader a good book? Is it worth reading?

    What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader is worth reading as it provides valuable insights from philosophy to enhance leadership skills.

    Who is the author of What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader?

    The authors of What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader are Alison Reynolds, Dominic Houlder, Jules Goddard, and David Lewis.