Virtuous Leadership

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Virtuous Leadership
Virtuous Leadership cover.jpg
AuthorAlexandre Havard
SubjectLeadership, virtue, self-development, business
PublisherScepter Publishers
Publication date
Media typeHardcover
158.4 22
LC ClassBV4630 .H38 2007

Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence is a book by Alexandre Havard. It sets forth a leadership model to help professional people grow in virtue and lead effectively.[1] Virtuous Leadership has been translated into 15 languages including Russian and Chinese. As such, some commentators have called it the first systematic and holistic attempt to relate the classical virtues to professional leadership in modern times.[2]

Havard’s leadership model is rooted in aretology—the science of virtue. Derived from the Greek word for virtue—arête—this branch of science stems from the work of the classical Greek philosophers—above all, Aristotle—and was developed further by such Christian philosophers and theologians as Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas.

A 10-point summary of Mr. Havard’s model:

  1. Authentic leadership must be based on authentic anthropology, which is to say, an authentic study of man. Such an anthropology must comprise aretology—the science of virtue—or it cannot be truly authentic. Virtue is a sound habit of the mind, the will and the heart that helps us achieve personal excellence and professional effectiveness. Leadership is all about virtue. Why? 1) Because virtue instills trust, the sine qua non of leadership. 2) Because virtue is a dynamic force, which enhances our capacity to act (the word "virtue" stems from the Latin word virtus, signifying "strength" or "power").
  2. Magnanimity and humility, which are virtues principally of the heart, are the essence of leadership. Magnanimity is the habit of striving towards great things. Leaders are magnanimous in their dreams, visions, and sense of mission; and also in their capacity to challenge themselves and those around them. Humility is the habit of service. Humility means that leaders pull rather than push, teach rather than command, inspire rather than berate. Thus, leadership is less about displays of power than the empowerment of others. Magnanimity and humility are two virtues that cannot be separated. Together they constitute a unique ideal: the ideal of the dignity and greatness of man. Magnanimity makes us conscience of our personal dignity and greatness; humility makes us conscience of the dignity and greatness of others. Magnanimity and humility are the fruits of a proper appreciation of the value of man; pusillanimity, which prevents man from understanding himself, and pride, which prevents him from understanding others, are the derive from a false appreciation of the value of man. Leadership is a life ideal that recognizes, assimilates and promotes the truth about man.
  3. The virtues of prudence (practical wisdom), courage, self-control and justice, which are virtues principally of the mind and the will, are leadership’s bedrock virtues. Prudence enhances our ability to make right decisions; courage to stay the course and resist pressures of all kinds; self-control to subordinate passions to the spirit and direct them towards the fulfillment of the mission at hand, and justice to give every individual his due.
  4. Leaders are not born, but trained. Why? Because virtue is a habit acquired through practice. Leadership is a question of character (virtue, freedom, self-improvement), not temperament (biology and genetics). Temperament may aid the development of some virtues and hinder others, but when virtues grow, they stamp character on our temperament so that temperament ceases to dominate us. Temperament is not an obstacle to leadership. The real obstacle is lack of character, which quickly leaves us drained of moral energy and quite incapable of leading.
  5. Leaders do not lead by exercising the potestas, or power, inherent in their office. Instead, they lead through the auctoritas, the authority that stems from character. Those who lack genuine authority and succumb to the temptation to exercise unalloyed power are leaders in name only. In fact, they are non-leaders. This is a vicious circle: low authority leads to abuse of power, which leads to further erosion of authority, and the path to authentic leadership is blocked.
  6. In order to grow in virtue one must a) contemplate virtue so as to perceive its intrinsic beauty and desire it strongly (a matter of the heart); b) act virtuously habitually (a matter of the will) and c) practice all the virtues simultaneously with special attention to prudence (a matter of reason.)
  7. Through the practice of virtues, leaders achieve maturity in all its aspects—judgmental, emotional, and behavioral. The unmistakable signs of maturity are self-confidence and consistency, psychological stability, joy and optimism, naturalness, a sense of freedom and responsibility, and interior peace. Leaders are neither skeptical nor cynical, but realistic. Realism is the ability to maintain the noblest aspirations of the soul even as one remains beset by this or that personal weakness. This is not giving in to weakness, but transcending it through the practice of virtues.
  8. Leaders reject a utilitarian approach to virtue. The leader's motive in striving for virtue is not simply to become good at what he does. Rather, it is to realize himself fully as a human being in doing what he does well. Effectiveness is not the aim of self-improvement; it is merely one of its manifold (happy) results. Excellence comes first, effectiveness second.
  9. True leaders live by virtue ethics, rather than by rules-based ethics. Virtue ethics does not deny the validity of laws and rules, but it does insist that rules cannot be the ultimate foundation of ethics. Laws and rules must be at the service of virtue. Virtue ethics redound to original and creative leadership.
  10. Christian life has a formidable impact on leadership, because the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity (which are the heart of Christian life) elevate, strengthen, and transfigure the natural virtues, which are the foundation of leadership. No study of the impact of virtue on leadership is complete without taking into consideration the supernatural virtues.

Table of Contents[edit]

  • Part I - Greatness and Service
    • Chapter 1 - Magnanimity: Striving Towards Great Things
    • Chapter 2 - Humility: the Ambition to Serve
    • Chapter 3 - Just say no
  • Part II - Practical Wisdom and Willpower
    • Chapter 1 - Prudence: Making the Right Decision
    • Chapter 2 - Courage: Staying the Course
    • Chapter 3 - Self-control: Mastery of Heart and Mind
    • Chapter 4 - Justice: Communion and Communication
  • Part III - Leaders are not Born, They are Trained
    • Chapter 1 - Aretology: the Science of Virtue
    • Chapter 2 - We are What we Habitually Do
    • Chapter 3 - The Unity of all the Virtues
    • Chapter 4 - Leaders of Mind, Will, and Heart
  • Part IV - Leadership and Self-Fulfillment
    • Chapter 1 - The Moral Profile of the Leader
    • Chapter 2 - Virtue and Self-Fulfillment
    • Chapter 3 - The Pitfalls of Rules-Based Ethics
  • Part V - Towards Victory
    • Chapter 1 - The Impact of Christian Life
    • Chapter 2 - An Agenda for Victory
  • Epilogue


  1. ^ Virtuous Leadership; New York: Scepter Publishers (2007); ISBN 1-59417-059-2
  2. ^ Retorikk, etikk og næringsliv, Odd Nordhaug og Hans-Ivar Kristiansen (red.)., Oslo 2009

External links[edit]