Leading Minds Research Project

Leadership ethics

Dr Jamie Dow is involved with a research project called Leading Minds. Full details can be found on the project website.

The project has twin aims.

  1. To trace the arguments deployed in ancient debates about the proper techniques for influencing and leading others – that is in debates conducted largely in terms of how one should understand the nature and status of “dialectic” and “rhetoric”.
  2. To bring these arguments to bear on pressing contemporary questions facing organisational, community, religious and political leaders about the proper manner in which leadership and influence should be sought and exercised.

A number of convictions underlie these aims.

  • Scholarship on ancient dialectic has tended to neglect its real-life (i.e. outwith philosophy) practical role as a expertise in exercising persuasive influence over others.
  • Scholarship on ancient rhetoric has tended to under-emphasise the evaluative significance of debates between ancient theorists about the status (e.g. as technê) or the contents of an expertise in rhetoric (i.e. what techniques should be included within ‘rhetoric’). The core insight is that these are debates about what skills and techniques are worth acquiring, cultivating and allowing.
  • Scholarship on both ancient rhetoric and ancient dialectic has tended to neglect the ways in which the two skills are rivals to each other, or are otherwise importantly related to each other within the thinking of ancient theorists (the treatment of some parts of Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Plato’s Phaedrus are significant exceptions, but serve to highlight the absence of such connections elsewhere in the treatment of ancient dialectic and rhetoric).
  • These ancient debates constitute a rich and wholly untapped resource for making progress with the pressing evaluative, especially ethical, questions about leadership and influence today, that are starting to be taken seriously by leadership practitioners and leadership theorists alike.