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The Virtues Project: An Approach to Developing Good Leaders

Abstract

Virtue words, such as justice, fairness, care, and integrity, frequently feature in organizational codes of conduct and theories of ethical leadership. And yet our modern organizations remain blemished by examples lacking virtue. The philosophy of virtue ethics and numerous extant theories of leadership cite virtues as essential to good leadership. But we seem to lack understanding of how to develop or embed these virtues and notions of good leadership in practice. In 2012, virtue ethicist Julia Annas pointed to a training program which she touted as a practical application of virtue ethics. The program Annas (Ethical Theory: An Anthology, Wiley, New York, 2012) identified is called The Virtues Project, and while promising, she warned that in its current state, it lacked theorizing. We address this by aligning its practical strategies to extant theory and evidence to understand what virtues it might develop and how it might facilitate good leadership. Doing so makes two key contributions. First, it lends credence to The Virtues Project’s potential as a leadership development program. Second, it provides a means of applying theories of good leadership in practice. Our overarching objective is to advance The Virtues Project as a means of incorporating virtues into workplace dynamics and embedding virtues in the practice of organizational leadership.

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Newstead, T., Dawkins, S., Macklin, R. et al. The Virtues Project: An Approach to Developing Good Leaders. J Bus Ethics 167, 605–622 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04163-2

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Keywords

  • Virtue
  • Virtue ethics
  • Leadership development