Leading Minds Workshop @ University of Leeds

mickyates Communication, Ethics, Higher Education, Ideas, Inspiration, Leadership, Leeds University, Values Leave a Comment

I was at a Leading Minds workshop over the weekend, at the University of Leeds. It was organised by Jamie Dow.

It is a research project, at the Interdisciplinary Ethics Applied Centre, on methods of persuasion. It brings together ancient philosophical discussions of the skills of “dialectic” (in interactive dialogue) and “rhetoric” (in speechmaking) and contemporary ethical concerns about legitimate methods of leadership and influence. It combines ancient philosophy scholarship to shed new light on ancient discussions, and careful inter-disciplinary work to bring the ancient arguments and claims into dialogue with today’s concerns.

The research aims to advances our understanding of ancient rhetoric and dialectic. But the aim is also to assess the merits of a range of methods and skills by which humans today use persuasion to exercise leadership and influence over others and themselves.

My working title?

What would Socrates tweet? All leaders communicate – some better than others. Some use powerful rhetoric, to exhort people to do things. Others use conversation (dialectic) to both engage and to teach. The latter is the Socratic method. So what can the ancients teach us about communication?

When we use Facebook, are we “exhorting” or “engaging”?

Of course, there is a lot more to this project than that. The notion of “truth” in our communications is key, as is the idea of “virtuous leadership”. That may be an ancient concept, though i suspect we need more of that today.

The speakers were an outstanding group of scholars, with a  very practical bent:

Dr. Sophie Aubert-Baillot, Universite Stendhal Grenoble
Open hand, closed fist : the continuum between Stoic dialectic and rhetoric

Prof. Joanne Ciulla, University of Richmond / Jepson School of Leadership Studies
Listening to the Ancients While Looking at the Present: The Enduring Ideas About Leaders and Ethics

Prof. M.M. McCabe, Kings College London
Conversation, Dissent and the Hemlock

Dr. Ian McCready-Flora, Columbia University
The Convincing Animal: Speech and Reason in Aristotle

Dr. Doris Schedlitzki, University of the West of England
The Holy Grail of Leadership: Changing Narratives in the Workplace

Prof. Dominic Scott, University of Virginia / University of Kent
Plato Versus Aristotle on Philosophical Method: Lessons for (university) Leaders

Dr. Raphael Woolf, King’s College London
Cicero on Rhetoric and Dialectic