Prospective leaders are frequently advised to know themselves. Such knowledge takes the form of an image, requiring the use of the imagination to create an identity based on some kind of self-concept. This process of looking inward is incomplete without also gaining critical distance from the self. Three prominent philosophers had offered heuristics to imagine oneself as somebody else. Plato asked, for example: what if you were no one – literally anonymous? How would that alter your perspective? Immanuel Kant suggested that you consider yourself and your situation from everyone's point of view and not just your own. And John Rawls asked, in regards to constituting a group or organization or even something so simple as a contract: what if you might be anyone, especially the least advantaged? Would the arrangement you presently favor seem fair to anyone? By adopting these heuristics and getting outside of one's self, a leader might avoid typical ethical failings and actually gain a more authentic self-concept.
The Philosophy of Self-Knowledge and Deception
Nathan W. Harter
This chapter asks the question of what should a teacher of leadership do in a pervasive culture of authenticity when it may be true that a liberal approach to leadership instruction requires the need to create perplexity in students and distance them not only from their society, but from their less talented peers. The chapter compares two alternatives to the teaching leadership in light of the status quo of authenticity: Michel Foucault’s truth-telling and Leo Strauss’s esoteric reading of philosophical texts. Both pedagogies find their root in the Socratic tradition. Foucault emphasizes the process of becoming a subject, a longer and more difficult journey of interior soul searching than is emphasized in today’s university environment. The esoteric method minds the problem of initiating potential philosophers into the search for truth in the context of a precarious social order. Historically, philosophers have faced persecution for questioning conventional pieties. As a result, thinkers throughout the ages resort to subterfuge by concealing their more penetrating insights through esoteric writing, which only a few exceptional minds will be able to understand.