Leadership, Virtues, and Classical Literature

So, what do Leadership, the Cardinal Virtues, and Classical Literature have to do with each other? Well, quite a lot actually.

One of my favorite books is On Reading Well (2018) by Karen Swallow Prior. In this excellent book, Dr. Prior, discusses the 12 Virtues and how you can learn more about them in great works of fiction from authors ranging from Charles Dickens to Mark Twain. For leaders of organizations, we should be growing in the Virtues and these virtues should be guiding us in how we lead others.

The virtue I am highlighting today is the Cardinal Virtue of Prudence.

“Prudence is a form of wisdom. The ancients distinguished between two types of wisdom: speculative wisdom (sophia), related to the world of abstract ideas, and practical wisdom (prudentia), related to the concrete world of particular actions.”

Karen Swallow Prior in “On Reading Well” (2018).

As Dr. Prior points out, it seems that wisdom in general is so rare today, that making a distinction between types of wisdom is “overly nuanced”. We live in such a flood of information that we so often mistake a lot of information for either knowledge or wisdom. Information, knowledge, and wisdom are three distinct things and should not be confused.

Prudence, is something that Angela, my wife, displays well. It is the practical application of wisdom to everyday matters. It is living our day-to-day lives in a wise manner,

“Prudence is wisdom at work on the ground, doing good and avoiding evil in real-life situations.”

Karen Swallow Prior in On Reading Well (2018).

In discussing leadership, one of the key points that is often discussed that good leaders are “self-managed” or “self-led”. In other words, they have control of their emotions and they lead through the use of reason. Dr. Prior points out that is is a part of prudence. Governing and disciplining ourselves by the use of reason.

So, are you a prudent person? Is this virtue strong in your life or is it an area of opportunity for growth? Become a more prudent person so that you may become a more effective leader.