Philosopher Kings

Ben Crowley2 Blogs Leave a Comment

Schumpeter has an interesting article in the Economist of October 4th.
He challenges the, quite long standing, practice for senior managers to attend outward bound courses in order to develop their Leadership skills.  He suggests there is no discernible benefit. 

We would be interested in others’ views.  Many years ago I directed the Developing Managerial Skills programme at Ashridge Business School and an outward bound exercise over a weekend was a key element.  The feedback from participants was generally very favourable but, crucially, its success depended on the skills in guiding the quality of the feedback on the part of the behavioural tutor who led this part of the course, 
Schumpeter argues that this type of activity is largely a waste of time.  More bizarrely, he argues that ‘inward bound’ courses, where managers are required to study classical texts including possibly Thucydides’s hymn to Pericles, would be more effective.  He quotes a number of examples of successful business leaders who studied Philosophy or Classics.  One suspects that Schumpeter himself has a degree in Classics. 
The idea of providing time for business leaders to think deeply about the issues they face is a good one, and indeed this might be more productive than sending them on outward bound exercises with ill thought out objectives. 
One further thought.  One of the great leaders of recent times, lauded by many academics including those at Harvard Business School where he was invited to share his thoughts with students and faculty, is Alex Ferguson of Manchester United.  It seems unlikely that Sir Alex read many of the great classical texts.

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