Wisdom and Responsible Leadership: Aesthetic Sensibility, Moral Imagination, and Systems Thinking | Sandra Waddock

Abstract The world needs wise leaders, but wisdom is clearly in short supply these days if the state of the world is any evidence. Just think of climate change, ecological damages done by modern industrial and agricultural practices, and collapsing and unfair mortgage and financial markets, not to mention the growing gap between rich and poor, as examples. But generally, the need for wisdom in leaders and managers, which is defined by Ackoff (Reflections 1(1): 14–24, 1999) as the capacity to think through the (short and long-term) consequences of actions, is under-appreciated. Using as a basis the argument that wisdom exists when three components—moral imagination (the good), systems understanding (the true), and aesthetic sensibility (the beautiful) are present (Waddock, Journal of Business Ethics Education 7: 177– 196, 2010), I explore the implications of this definition for teaching future leaders to be both wise and ethical in their decision making and actions.

Keywords Wisdom • Moral imagination • Systems • Aesthetics • Leadership

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The whole is more than the sum of its parts | Daniel Christian Wahl

Whole-systems thinking has to be a transdisciplinary activity that maps and integrates relationships, flows and perspectives into a dynamic understanding of the structures and processes that drive how the system behaves.

We can reduce the world to a whole just as easily as we can reduce it to a collection of parts. Neither the whole nor parts are primary; they come into being through the dynamic processes that define their identity through relationships and networks of interactions.

We should regard the boundaries that delineate one system from another as places of connection and exchange rather than barriers that separate or isolate.

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