The roots of leadership are to be found in the relationship between master and slave. Patrick O’Sullivan studied this phenomena from the perspective of morality in order to present another vision of leadership that is more altruistic and unifying.
Leadership is characterized by the capacity to influence and unite a group to achieve a common goal. A leader is someone who holds the steering wheel. "Many studies are carried out on the subject of leadership, but few ask questions about the morality of this practice in philosophical terms.
Yet leadership can be used equally for a positive goal or one whose morality is less clear." explains Patrick O'Sullivan, a professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management. How can we identify leadership that is efficient and just?
Open the doors to internal debate
A company that wishes to rethink its leadership must first analyze the quality of its current leadership. This means being able to look critically at the goals of the leader. This is all the more important as leaders are responsible for more than everyday functions. They impact the company and its social engagements. "Volkswagen's diesel motor scandal demonstrates how decisions by top management, and therefore leadership, have consequences for the entire brand." highlights Patrick O'Sullivan.
Debate is the solution that allows a company to evaluate the good and bad sides of its leadership. This opens the door to creating a consensus on the right practices for management. "The same practices can appear to be right or wrong depending on the person. The goal is to find a compromise that establishes a leadership practice that is acceptable in moral terms to everyone. This also creates leadership that is more efficient." adds Patrick O'Sullivan.
A leader aims to support employee well-being
It is possible to move beyond the vision of leadership as a concept based on the master-slave relationship. "For Plato, a ruler was the person who was most efficient at serving the people. In the same manner, leaders can think of themselves as someone who acts for the well-being of his or her employees and clients." explains the professor.
This means that top management and HR have to be ready to ask questions about a manager's ability to serve. The goal is to find some who, in addition to job skills, has the personality to motivate a team through means that go beyond salaries and bonuses. The result is employees who are more efficient and engaged.