The Republic by Plato
Translated from the Greek by Benjamin Jowett
New York, Dover Thrift ed., 2000
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Born into a wealthy aristocratic Athenian family in circa 428 to 424 BC, Plato was mentored by Socrates, did military service, travelled, studied, wrote extensively and founded an influential Academy, one of the first organised schools in Western history, offering a broad curriculum including astronomy, biology, mathematics, religion political theory and philosophy. Aristotle was a pupil at the academy.
The Republic written circa 380 BC is a contemporary dialogue, with Socrates as narrator, on the nature of justice. Using the example of a utopian republic, Socrates explores through (Socratic) dialogue how justice can flourish in the city state and arrives at the conclusion that proven trained philosophers (“philosopher kings”) are the only suitable and natural candidates to be guardians of the state and promote justice and the good.
There are many ideas in the Republic that would seem out of place in modern leadership such as the idea of a natural born leader with genetic leadership qualities and the promotion of a rigid (elite) hierarchy. Other ideas have a very modern feel. In Socrates’ utopia, there are no barriers between men and women – women have the same access to education, development and opportunities that men have and the state plays a critical role in providing childcare.
The real merit of The Republic and its modern leadership application lies in the qualities of a leader. The top 5 leadership qualities from The Republic applicable to a modern business setting include:
That leadership, like any other professional pursuit, requires dedicated training and development
One of the best ways to develop leadership and for a leader to reach potential is through shadowing, mentoring and supervised leadership assignments
A leader has integrity, good principles and does what is best for others
A leader needs to draw on the skills and expertise around them
Characteristics of a good leader includes being knowledgeable, wise, not jumping to assumptions, highly motivated and motivating, self-disciplined with a good understanding of their inner self