University Of Tasmania

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Virtues and Leadership

posted on 2023-05-22, 19:41 authored by Tobias NewsteadTobias Newstead

Virtues and leadership have been topics of philosophy and scientific inquiry for millennia. There are tomes and knowledge traditions of both virtues and leadership that stretch back as far as human memory and they will remain important topics for as long as we continue to live and work in human community. Virtues and leadership are important because they are central to our ability to live good lives in community with others.

When we talk about virtues, we are usually talking about the goodness part of us. Virtues are the building blocks of good character; they are what allow us to connect and live in harmony with others. Ancient traditions and modern theorizing suggest that virtues such as wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence are essential to the very survival of human communities. Without virtues, we cannot exist harmoniously or long-term in community (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Learning and developing virtues is how an individual becomes a good person and interacts positively with others. Practicing and abiding by virtues collectively is how we create and maintain good communities – be they ancestorial hunting parties or modern organizations.

When we talk about leadership, we are usually talking about the processes by which people come together in collective action towards some shared purpose. Good leadership is what happens when this collective, relational process of coming together occurs for the right reasons, and when shared purpose is enacted in the right ways and directed towards the right ends (Ciulla, 2004). Understanding leadership like this explains how our ancestors might have performed a successful sustenance hunt and how our modern organizations implement important strategic initiatives.


Publication title

SAGE Encyclopedia of Leadership Studies


George R. Goethals, Scott T. Allison, Georgia J. Sorenson








Sage Publications Ltd

Publication status

  • Accepted

Place of publication

Thousand Oaks, Calif



Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives


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