You are never far from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle although you are technically not into philosophy. You are also likely aware of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and perhaps even Friedrich Nietzsche and Cornel West. And Simone de Beauvoir and Karl Marx if you consider them to be philosophers.
Some of the above-mentioned names have been chosen because of their revolutionary ideas – like the political theorist Marx and the feminist de Beauvoir. Others are present because their ideas were a total aberration from that which their contemporaries were theorizing at the time – like West and Nietzsche. Yet others have been taken up in this context because they were arguably the first to explicitly bring an idea into the philosophical dialogue – like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
That said, there are countless other philosophers who fit into one or more than one of the above-mentioned groups. To be sure though, although a philosopher’s ideas are not particularly novel or revolutionary or although s/he is not well-known outside the field, she or he are no lesser a philosopher.
But if it is not recognition or innovation, one may ask what makes a good philosopher. Such a question leads to that which is called principles.
Maybe to be a good philosopher is to hold a set of principles that guide one’s thoughts. Randomly claiming some idea (no matter how unique and profound it is) with no foundation or reasoning that backs it up is not practicing good philosophy. Instead, coming to an idea based on principles or guidelines that one believes to be true is the way in which philosophy is done. Even though the idea has been said before, how one got to it may be different.
By having strong principles that advise one’s thinking, one is on her or his way to philosophising. Importantly, the activity of philosophising is not exclusive to philosophers. Sound reasoning and coherent explanations should be utilized by everyone.
This is especially critical in positions of leadership. Below are four philosophical principles that leaders of every stripe should follow – at least in my view!
1 – Always Be Clear
One of the most important jobs of a philosopher is to make the topic of the discussion as transparent as possible. Often times, objections in philosophical debate stem from one side not being clear in what exactly is being talked about. Whether these criticisms are because of misunderstanding or something else, the problems will most likely be undermined when the topic itself is made clear. In terms of leadership, leaders ought to also make things as clear as possible for their employees. This is the surest way to avoid mistakes and improve productivity.
2 – Understand All Sides
When articulating some argument, a philosopher’s basic work is not done when s/he has gained the knowledge from all of those who agree. Importantly, in fact, s/he have to digest all of the dissenting opinions. In this way, the philosopher can be sure to fully understand the topic of the argument and make a valid addition to it. On this same note, leaders need to listen to all sides. Without considering opposing ways of managing disrespectful employees or grappling with a organisational problem, there can be no way to be sure one is making the best decision. By appreciating and listening to every possible option, one will find herself or himself a better and more well-versed leader.
3 – Be Okay Being Wrong
Going along with the second principle, a philosopher may come across a dissenting opinion to their own, find that this claim makes more sense and shift to having this opinion. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Many times, this shows that the philosopher has a greater understanding of a topic than if s/he keeps her or his original opinion.Occasionally, a philosopher may realize that s/he was wrong even without any help from others. Again, this only proves a fuller grasp of the issue itself in that it shows you are more interested in gaining the knowledge than personally being right. This is also the outlook leaders should have. Care less about one’s personal opinion and more about having the best place of work for oneself and one’s employees. Being okay with being wrong is how to do this.
4 – Show Appreciation
Many of the most important philosophical ideas come outside of the classroom or university office. Often, they come when philosophy is not the focus at all. One famous example comes from 20th century German philosopher Martin Heidegger who would take long walks deep into the Black Forrest of Todtnauberg, Germany. It was on these walks that the idea of Being and Time – which is one of the most influential philosophy books of the last 150 years, was originated.It is easy for leaders to get caught up in the moment. Productivity, efficiency and profitability can be so important that to actually stop and appreciate where one and one’s larger goals can slip one’s mind. Being a leader is something that ought to be acknowledged and enjoyed, so one should follow Heidegger. It is possible that some of one’s best leadership ideas will follow.