The language of ‘leadership’, while ubiquitous, is dominated by discourses in business and politics, which tend to focus narrowly on cultivating instrumental skills rather than virtues of character. How might research in the humanities enable us to overcome this character deficit and illuminate the arts of good leadership?
Since 2014, The Oxford Character Project has been conducting research into character formation and developing a student programme that brings together Oxford postgraduates from across the University to consider the nature of leadership and the qualities of character needed to exercise leadership that furthers the common good.
‘The Arts of Leading’ is a research project that has grown out of our engagement with the humanities over the last two years. Our aim is to promote a wider discussion about character and leadership grounded in study of the humanities. Taking leadership as a fundamentally human category and making personal formation and human flourishing central to our discussion, we are seeking to draw diverse voices into a conversation that explores the relation between ideals of effective leadership and questions concerning who we are and who we aspire to become.
From this perspective, the humanities constitute an important locus of research for the study and practice of global leadership. Our conversation has already included discussions of solitude, friendship, gratitude, humility, practical wisdom, and biography, and we have been seeking to learn from literature, poetry, film, music, portraiture, philosophy, and theology in conjunction with the more typical leadership discourses of business and politics. We are eager to explore new ways of understanding and imagining the arts of leading.