Volume 41, Issue 1, Spring 2022
Gerald F. Cavanagh, Oliver F. Williams
Retrieving Aristotle’s Phronesis
A Focus on Character and Practical Wisdom in the Selection of Business Leaders
Most executives recognize that the long-term financial health, prosperity and survival of their firm depend upon leaders who have good moral character. The article argues that a retrieval of Aristotle’s work on character and virtue can bring new clarity on how to identify and select leaders of our business institutions. The study presents a discussion of Aristotle’s phronesis or practical wisdom and how this focus might aid and abet the selection of appropriate leaders. The original contribution offered here centers on how virtue only makes sense for Aristotle in the context of a teleological worldview whereby human beings are seeking what is intrinsically worthwhile—purpose, meaning, health, and community life. For Aristotle, virtues are much more than what makes a person attractive to the job market. Catholic social teaching reflects this Aristotelian perspective on the role of business in society. The article concludes showing how Aristotle’s insight on phronesis offers a way to enhance standard processes employed in the selection of business leaders.