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If philosophers went on a leadership course: A (serious) farce in three Acts

Wilson, Suze; Lee, Hugh; Ford, Jackie; Harding, Nancy

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Suze Wilson

Hugh Lee

Nancy Harding


Leadership development is big business, with business schools and private providers offering leadership development programmes claimed to help turn managers into wise, good and able leaders. Leadership development originated in philosophy and, in the Western tradition, dates back at least as far as Socrates. This article asks: how would philosophers qua wisdom-lovers [philo-sophes] respond to contemporary programmes? We use the dramatic licence offered by theatre to imagine Foucault, Butler, Kant, Hume and others participating in a leadership training course. As our play opens, we find them critiquing a 360-degree psychometric assessment instrument they have been asked to complete. Our highly select group argue it solicits docile, servile supplicants to the interests of neoliberal capitalism. They offer an alternative containing key questions putative leaders should explore. The script includes other dramatis personnae and a Chorus (the authors of this paper). Speeches and programme notes provide the necessary bones of an academic paper, such as literature reviews and philosophical contexts. We ask colleagues to join with us in reconnecting leadership development to its philosophical roots in an effort to foster wiser and more ethical leadership.


Wilson, S., Lee, H., Ford, J., & Harding, N. (in press). If philosophers went on a leadership course: A (serious) farce in three Acts. Leadership,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 9, 2022
Online Publication Date Apr 26, 2022
Deposit Date Jun 10, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 10, 2022
Journal Leadership
Print ISSN 1742-7150
Electronic ISSN 1742-7169
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
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Published Journal Article (829 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (

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