Steward Leadership Through Prudence

Posted by Matthew Thomas

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matthew-thomas-2.jpgLately, we've been talking about how Plato's four Civic Virtues are the basis for steward leadership of our organizations. We have looked at them generally, in the context of stewarding anger; and we have looked at temperance individually. Today, we look at prudence.


Prudence, or wisdom, should be a no-brainer for those of us in leadership. Wisdom applies not just to tactical leadership, but if we are to take Plato at face value (Republic, IV.428), wisdom applies to governing an organization - the overall policy-setting work, both as directed within the organization and out toward its clients, customers, constituents, or other stakeholders.


Like what you're reading? Subscribe Now! Prudence is enshrined in the law as applied to various areas of business life - representing the application of care and diligence as opposed to negligence. This has the tendency to bend our definition of prudence away from wisdom and wise policy design and toward risk management - which itself is often code for risk avoidance.


Prudence in a broader sense, however, carries with it much more than the risk management aspects of policy creation. It holds a spark - even a divine spark - of creativity in the application of knowledge, experience, and empathy to situations at hand in light of a vision for the future. Of course, this vision for the future must not either be too excessively apocalyptic or quotidian, in the first place, lest it lead us out of temperance or prudence altogether. More often than not, the reason prudence is so diminished is not due to a lack of knowledge or experience, but because the vision for the future is somehow distorted or dark. This is the greatest barrier to the full pursuit of prudence in organizational life.  


(Related: Doing Good while Doing Well)


So applying prudence to steward leadership of our organizations we find:


  • Creativity will be present
  • (Good) Vision gives us context
  • Decisions will be made with adequate reflection and also with timely execution


I'm curious to see how you apply prudence as you lead your organization.

How do you manage the use of virtue? If you wouldn't mind, e-mail me  and let me know how you see anger, and virtue at work.


We'd also like to provide you with a resource describing the balance of decision-making process: more reflective, or more active? Which way do you tend?


Tao of action-reflection, primer on process

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Topics: steward leaders, Matthew Thomas, steward leader, virtue, prudence, Plato, temperance