Why should leaders care about Philosophy?


As leaders we are sometimes faced with big questions about life, direction, right and wrong etc. But if we just draw on our experience alone, we may not see the full picture. It’s helpful to have a basic understanding of philosophy to help guide us in the deeper questions we might want to ask in order to develop the best way forward

For example, an employee comes to you for career advice and having a sense of purpose. You might have a handy list of coaching questions you can ask, but if you have a broad understanding of philosophy and different approaches to existence, you might be able to help the person navigate these questions in a more meaningful way.

Likewise, what if you are faced with an ethical dilemma in your company? Knowledge of the branch of ethics can help make your decision-making process more transparent. There’s a conflict in the office? Knowledge of epistemology might help you identify the different world views at play and help them find common ground to work through the conflict.

There are many different ways to categorise philosophy and it can be difficult to get universal agreement. But here are some of the branches of western and eastern philosophy:

  • Ontology (what is the nature of existence?)
  • Metaphysics (what is beyond this world?)
  • Epistemology (how do we know what we know?)
  • Logic (how do we reason?)
  • Ethics (what is of value?)
  • Aesthetics (what is beauty?)
  • Political philosophy (what is power and governance?)
  • Spiritual cultivation (What is my relationship to something bigger than myself?)

Some of the other leadership activities that philosophical knowledge helps with includes:

  • A broad understanding of social justice topics
  • The development of leadership ethics
  • Conflict Management approaches
  • Personal and social development
  • Understanding the limitations of your perspective
  • Discerning propaganda
  • Understanding culture
  • Decision making
  • Structured thinking
  • Power and governance
  • Motivation and inspiration
  • Finding purpose
  • Choosing goals
  • Self knowledge and happiness

Therefore if you’re a leader who hasn’t explored philosophy before here are a few quick starting points for inspiration:

Crash course philosophy: What is Philosophy?: Crash Course Philosophy #1 – YouTube

Eastern vs Western philosophy (The School of Life) Eastern vs. Western Philosophy – YouTube

Alain de Botton on the mission of philosophy and ideas about life Meet Alain de Botton | A philosopher of the modern times | Leaders in Action Society – YouTube

Aristotle’s philosophy in leadership Philosophy in Leadership: Aristotle | Dominic Houlder – YouTube

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