6 min read ⌚
Agenda for Personal Excellence
What if leadership is something more about just leading people?
What if it is also about becoming a better person yourself?
In “Virtuous Leadership,” Alexandre Havard digs deep into history to apply some of the findings of the Ancient Greek and Medieval Christian philosophers to modern leadership.
And, commentators say, he does a pretty great job!
Who Should Read “Virtuous Leadership”? And Why?
Unlike most of the leadership books we’ve summarized so far – and there are hundreds and hundreds of them – this one is not about how you can become a good leader, but how you should become a good man leading people to better things and a better world.
“In modern society,” warned Peter Drucker back in his 1973 classic “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices,” there is no other leadership group but managers. If the managers of our major institutions, and especially of business, do not take responsibility for the common good, no one else can or will.
Havard took this suggestion extremely seriously and developed a whole philosophy out of it.
And his book “Virtuous Leadership” is for anyone believes Drucker’s cautionary notice to be nothing short of a truism.
About Alexandre Havard
Alexandre Havard is a French thinker and leadership expert.
Born in Paris on February 7, 1962, Havard is the grandson of Soviet émigrés on both sides of his family: his father’s parents fled Saint Petersburg during the Bolshevik Revolution, and his mother’s father was a Georgian aristocrat who left the Soviet Union in 1926.
Alexandre Havard studied law at Paris Descartes University and served as a barrister in both Strasbourg and Helsinki. In 2007, he moved back to the country of his ancestors and has been living in Moscow ever since.
He has written three books – “Virtuous Leadership,” “Created for Greatness,” and “From Temperament to Character”– and is the founder of Virtuous Leadership Institute (VLI).
“Virtuous Leadership PDF Summary”
Naturally, all of them are deeply engaged in the art of making you a great leader, one capable of leading well a million-dollar company and an enormous team as efficiently and effectively as possible.
However, none of them seem too concerned about the common good or about how much the future of humanity depends on you being a good leader – in the literal sense of those words.
If you lead people to hell,” warns Alexandre Havard, “you are not a leader. The Devil is not a leader – he’s a manipulator:
Authentic leadership shouldn’t be a business- or a market-grounded phenomenon since leadership is rooted deeply within our human nature.
Consequently, authentic leadership should be based on authentic anthropology, which, among other things encompasses aretology, that is, the science of virtue.
The word itself, “virtue,” stems from the Latin word virtus, which, in essence, means “strength” or “power.”
Virtuous leaders are, consequently, powerful and strong leaders, people you can trust wholeheartedly.
And you can trust them since they exhibit two virtues of the heart which we have less and less of in the modern world: magnanimity and humility.
Magnanimity – having a “great soul” – isn’t just “the habit of striving towards great things”; it’s also the habit of including humanity in your personal mission. Humility, on the other hand, is the habit of service; it means serving others instead of your own ego.
Think of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, and you’ll instantly get the picture of what it means to be a magnanimous humble leader.
Great leaders also exhibit few essential virtues of the mind and the will: prudence, courage, self-control, and justice.
Prudence helps them to make the right decisions, while courage to put these decisions into action; self-control helps them subdue their intimate passions and beliefs whenever necessary, and their sense of justice is what makes the trustworthy and dependable.
Nobody is born with these virtues: all of them can and have to be acquired.
Consequently, leaders are not born but trained.
After all, if you need a simple equation:
Leadership is character.
And even more:
We perceive and interpret things through the lens of character. By strengthening our character – i.e., by growing in virtue – we improve our ability to deliberate in the light of reason.
So, the real obstacle to becoming a leader is being uninterested in strengthening your character. Those who lack some (or, worse, all) of it, try to make up for it by exercising power and authority, which usually has the very opposite effect.
Mature leaders don’t need to exert power: their authority comes almost naturally since they are naturally self-confident and stable, optimistic and free, peaceful and consistent.
And this is because they are exceptional human beings, in that they care much more about becoming a better version of themselves and furthering the common good (which is almost a byproduct of the former) than being effective and operational.
As far as these leaders are concerned, rules-based ethics is not as important as virtue ethics. In other words, even though they believe that laws and rules are necessary to lay down the foundations of ethics, they know that true ethical behavior is something more and depends on the situation.
And only someone who has a proper virtue-based education is capable of understanding when the existent ethical rules limit our virtues and should be transcended.
Key Lessons from “Virtuous Leadership”
1. Leadership Is Character
2. The Two Virtues of the Heart and the Four Virtues of the Mind
3. Mature Leaders Are Realistic, Not Skeptical
Leadership Is Character
The main lesson one should take away from Alexandre Havard’s book is very simple: leadership is not a skill you can acquire, but a character you should strengthen.
In essence, there should be no perceptible discrepancy between being a good leader and being a good man.
In fact, good men are the only ones who can be good leaders as well, since bad men who lead are merely leaders by designation and manipulators in truth.
The Two Virtues of the Heart and the Four Virtues of the Mind
All great leaders in history have exhibited two virtues of the heart and four virtues of the mind.
The former two are magnanimity – i.e., the virtue of being daring enough to face danger in the name of a higher, more noble purpose – and humility – that is, the quality of being humble.
The letter four are prudence, courage, self-control, and justice.
Mature Leaders Are Realistic, Not Skeptical
There’s a difference between being realistic and being skeptical – and great, virtue-educated leaders know this.
Being realistic, for Havard, means being able to maintain the noble aspirations of the soul while being aware of your personal limitations and flaws. Being skeptical is nothing short of being cynical, i.e., pessimistic about humanity’s purpose here on Earth in general.
Don’t trust these people: more or less, they are the very problem they point out.
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“Virtuous Leadership Quotes”
Envy involves bitterness and resentment, possibly combined with a desire to bring down one’s neighbor. It can easily become a toxic brew engendering hatred. Often, it has its roots in an inferiority complex. Click To Tweet
The humble man sees himself as he really is. He acknowledges his weaknesses and shortcomings, but also his strengths and abilities. ‘To despise the gifts that God has given is not due to humility, but to ingratitude,’ writes Thomas… Click To Tweet
The sine qua non of improvement is the emotionally mature and intelligent desire to overcome oneself and to help others do likewise. This desire stems from a deep awareness of the exalted vocation of man. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
A while ago, we shared with you Martin Parker’s controversial opinion that all business schools must be bulldozed, since what they teach students is morally wrong.
“Virtuous Leadership” has a bit more creative – or, at least, a bit less destructive – approach: business schools do teach morally wrong things, the book says, but let’s try to turn that around.
And Havard tries really hard to do just that.
Somebody has finally written a book about virtue for those engaged in the business world,” concurs Benjamin D. Wiker, author of “A Meaningful World.” Too many books spill out of the presses on being effective, on getting your way, on making big bucks quick. This book should be in every airport across Europe and America!
Wiker adds that, even more, you should “ditch all the other quick-read, make-million business books that litter the bookstore shelves.”
And if you want to be a virtuous leader – indeed you should.