My first exposure to the famous allegory of the cave in Plato’s The Republic
in relationship to organizational leadership came via Gareth Morgan’s book Images of Organizations.
His introduction to organizations as a “Psychic Prison” captured my imagination. For many years, I have pondered the implications of Morgan’s assertion, “Human beings have a knack for getting trapped in webs of their own creation.” That sparked my interest in leadership and organizational development.
Nearly two decades have passed since my first reading and I have seen my share of leaders stuck in webs, messes and traps. It serves little purpose to nod in agreement with Morgan’s statement and do nothing to move forward. Healthy leaders learn and share their learning. They discover how to break free and they enjoy the rewards of helping others to avoid those same traps altogether. This is the essence of a transformational leader. Sharing experiences and learning together.
Move beyond the allegory of the cave and you will discover The Republic
offers a couple of critical questions that will help you refine your focus on becoming a better leader and developing the leaders around you.
“How shall we create our rulers; what way is there from darkness to light? The change is effected by philosophy, it is not the turning over of an oyster-shell, but the conversion of a soul from night to day, from becoming to being. And what training will draw the soul upwards?”
Fast forward twenty-four hundred years. These two questions are not esoteric philosophical questions. The essence of these two questions robs sleep from CEOs, parents, teachers, coaches and managers. These challenges inspire billions of dollars invested in leadership training and education.
How shall we create transformational leaders?
What kind of training produces the best leaders?
If you are asking these questions today, you’re not alone. These are good questions. But, don’t gloss over the ancient commentary surrounding the questions. It’s not just about leadership, “ruling” well. It is about the trajectory of life. Can your leadership journey be characterized as a movement from darkness to light? Do you keep this trajectory in mind when you raising up emerging leaders around you? Do you engage in development efforts that will help sustain an upward focus?
The best leaders keep these aspects front of mind. They do not allow leading, teaching and coaching to drift from a core commitment to foster growth in character and virtue. Becoming the best version of you is not cliché. It is a serious commitment to live on purpose. You must recognize and fight against the undercurrent of selfishness that invades the leadership space. Combat the temptation to become increasingly egocentric and choose to serve a higher purpose.
For Personal Reflection:
How would you describe your mission to create and train leaders?
What is the trajectory of your leadership?
How would you define virtuous leadership?