The nature of leadership and the human qualities that promote or inhibit it have a long history in Western thought and remain a central concern in modern societies. Crises in leadership may arise either from human failings or social complexities that defeat or reject those most qualified to lead. David Cawthon examines classical thinkers from Plato to Nietzsche to offer a historical and philosophical perspective on the intrinsic qualities of leadership, and how these qualities are coded into the souls of some, but not of others.
Cawthon begins by tracing the ancient roots of the inquiry into character and leadership. He guides the reader through what Plato believed was the "code of the soul" of the truly successful leader and Aristotle's idea of the golden mean that enabled freemen to rule. Turning to the Christian period, the author examines the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas who, like Aristotle, perceived a natural hierarchy among humans with the rational power of their intellect enabling a few to lead the many. St. Augustine, a Platonist and idealist, propounded the unity of faith and reason in a discussion of the nature of human activity in the City of Man and the City of God.
Cawthon shows how the rise of secular philosophy occasions an opposition between individualist and collectivist approaches to leadership. The rationalist Thomas Hobbes upheld absolute monarchy, but recognized a restricted social contract under an autocratic king. John Locke, in his turn, presented natural laws and a social contract based upon the consent of the governed. Rousseau pragmatically favored "guided democracy" under the manipulation of the most persuasive individual. Hegel, drawing on the fundamental role that conflict played in the evolution from antitheses to a new synthesis, placed emphasis on duty, not individualism, while Marx, of course, believed the dialectic of history would favor the proletariat which would rule through party apparatus. Cawthon concludes with a discussion of Nietzsche, who rejected everything that came before in favor of the raw will to power by the superman who is clearly, demonstrably superior.
Cawthon's historical approach is geared toward extrapolating lessons and examples for contemporary contexts of leaderships. In each of his chapters he points out the cardinal qualities modern leaders should possess both in politics and the workplace. Philosophical Foundations of Leadership will be of interest to philosophers, as well as management specialists, intellectual historians, and students of business and organization.
David Cawthon was professor of management at the Meinders School of Business, Oklahoma City University.