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Virtuous Leadership; transforming, life, culture and business

It was an intense afternoon, of deep philosophical learning, with Alexandre Havard, as he shared his vast knowledge in an auditorium full of students, staff and friends of the Strathmore University Community. The topic, ‘Virtuous Leadership’ was as intriguing as it was enlightening.

Havard, the founder of Virtuous Leadership Institute and a renowned author explained that leadership is a science that explores who you are and what you are capable of. He shared surprising statistics that whereas 10% of technical skills in which one is trained are used in the execution of a task, the other 90% is about who you are as a person.

What is the essence of virtuous leadership? He detailed that it has been proven that without virtues, leadership becomes dictatorial, and manipulative. According to Havard, when the 4 main/basic virtues are missing in a human being, that person collapses. The virtues are:

1. Courage: This enables one to act
2. Self-control: Helps a leader to control their passions and keeps them tempered.
3. Justice: Giving each person what is due to them
4. Prudence: Practical wisdom to make decisions

Service and leadership

Whereas many may suppose that leadership is about achieving personal greatness, virtuous leadership is about bringing out greatness in others. The element of service has to be strong; to serve others so as to bring out the best in them.

At the level of service and leadership there is a close link with magnanimity and humility as well. Magnanimity, Havard described as the attention of the heart and mind towards great things. A great leader must not only have the capacity to dream big, but must necessarily set high goals for others and encourage them dream big too.
Alexandre Havard sounded a word of caution to his audience not to be small-minded, as these people tend to have little magnanimity, people who don’t dream and don’t feel any responsibility to what is happening around them.

Havard however sought to put right the assumption that with humility one cannot acknowledge one’s area of strength. A magnanimous person need not be afraid to speak about what they are good at. One has to speak about one’s talents, not to be modest about them. This is the virtue of humility, it requires truthfulness. Havard urged his listeners to distinguish between pride and humility. With pride, one boasts while with humility, one recognizes their role in serving humanity in one’s area of strength.

How then does one develop magnanimity?

Mr. Havard shared some useful insights to help one develop into a true leader.

Firstly, identify people who have the quality of magnanimity and spend time with them. This gives one the chance to watch them in action, see how they set goals and how they achieve what they set out to do. He advised that reading good books and watching carefully selected movies, has been proven to influence what one thinks about and holds as ideals.  

Secondly, he was categorical that one has to choose their environment wisely and to have the discipline in keeping the environment right. One has to have these ideals at heart as both magnanimity and humility are deeply rooted in the heart of man.

Virtuous leadership then has to do with service, humility and magnanimity and a struggle to practice virtue as a firm basis for true leadership. Contrary to popular belief, leadership has little to do with being boss and acting bossy but has to do with serving others and developing them.

The Q/A session followed as the audience asked Havard for clarifications on the various points he had shared.

All in all, we left the auditorium, deep in thought, wiser and perhaps keen to put into practice the learnings of a wonderful afternoon with a great teacher.  

About Alexandre Havard

Alexandre Havard is the author of the Virtuous Leadership system and the founder of the Havard Virtuous Leadership Institute. Born in Paris, he is a barrister by profession having graduated from the René Descartes University, one of France’s leading law schools, and practiced law in several European countries. He is now living and working in Moscow where he offers seminars in Virtuous Leadership to senior business executives and university students. In the United States Alexandre Havard presented at the US Army War College, the Harvard Business School and the Corporation Service Company (CSC). His book Virtuous Leadership (New York, 2007) has been translated into 15 languages. Alexandre Havard is also the author of Created for Greatness: The Power of Magnanimity (Washington, 2011).