Some call it a gift—most just call it strange—but I read certain concepts and then connect concepts or theories together in a long line of strange or perhaps innovative thoughts. I have spent the past several years studying, researching, reading, and writing about the Ancient Greek Philosophers and Roman Stoics. Further, I have also been a fan of Star Wars since 1977–I am also a professor of leadership and all three of these things just seem to all go together—at least for me.
What do you believe about leadership?
We all have a slightly different slant on what it takes to be a great leader. If you found a teacher that believed the same as you–would that send you to their leadership school or academy?
The Ancient Greek teachers and sophists would teach using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric. In general, they claimed to teach arete (“excellence” or “virtue”), predominantly to young statesmen and nobility. Some teachers would teach a specific type of philosophy and this would draw a certain type of student. Sophists taught on a fee basis–as such they would market their curriculum.
The Ancient Hebrew Rabbis’ role in community was to study, mediate, and discuss teachings to help people understand what God was saying to them through the Torah/text. Most rabbis taught from the lessons of well respected rabbis, but every once in a while a rabbi would come along who was teaching a new way of interpreting the Torah—so there were specific schools of thought in the ancient world concerning religion and philosophy. I ponder what that might look like today—what if we had schools of leadership. What school would you follow?
Over the next few months we will ponder various schools of leadership—some factual—some fictional– I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to Hogwarts as an example:
Let’s start begin the series with The Praxeum—I have been using the word Praxeum for a few months now—interesting how many folks nod their head at me in understanding. You never know—maybe they do understand, but I had no idea there were that many hard-core Star Wars fans out there.
Perhaps it is just a confusion between practicum and praxeum. A practicum or practical is supervised practical application of a previously or concurrently studied theory. Practicums are common for education and social work majors. The process resembles an internship.
A Praxeum is a Jedi Academy. The ancient Jedi scholar Karena coined the term praxeum to describe a Jedi academy as a place for the “distillation of learning combined with action.” In the days of the Galactic Republic, well-known praxeums included those on Teya IV, Arkania, Ossus and Dantooine.
The “distillation of learning combined with action”—is the optimum leadership education system, is it not? Perhaps we combine a praxeum and a practicum in order to engage people in a true leadership education.
The Praxeum was built to train Jedi. A Jedi was a member of the Jedi Order, who studied, served and used the mystical energies of the Force; (sometimes referred to as the light side of the Force). Originally the order formed as a philosophical study group situated on the planet Tython, the Jedi became revered as guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. The way of the Jedi had become the way of wisdom and patience, backed by swift and decisive action when necessary.
The Jedi Order were devoted to the Force, also known as the Ashla. The Force was aligned with calmness and was used for knowledge and defense. The Jedi were notable practitioners of the Force, and were the mortal enemies of the Sith, who followed the dark side of the Force.
The Force was built around the alignment of tranquility, compassion, selflessness, and unconditional love for all living creatures. In order to achieve harmony and a state of benevolence, its practitioners, would meditate and let the force flow through them.
Becoming a Jedi required the most profound commitment and astute mind; the life of a Jedi was one of sacrifice. From the beginning of their training, a Jedi was expected to adhere to this strict Code. Dark emotions such as hate, anger, and fear were thought to be destructive, leading down the path to the dark side of the Force, so the Jedi were taught to purge such feelings.
In following the Code, Jedi behavior was rigidly structured to uphold self-discipline, responsibility, and public service. The Jedi conquered emotions and materialism. They honored life, the law, the Order itself and the master-student or mentoring relationship. Jedi rendered aid to support and defend the weak; compassion was “encouraged.” Rules of engagement included such notions as understanding the dark and light in all things, learning to see accurately, opening their eyes to what was not evident and exercising caution, even in trivial matters.
The strength of the Jedi Code and organization of the Order rested on the three core tenets of: The Force, Knowledge, and Self-Discipline. Students at the Praxeum trained in the ways of the Force, learned to defend themselves with a lightsaber, and studied diplomacy, history, strategy, and more.
I am not implying the ancient Greeks were Jedi—but it is interesting to note the master-student or mentoring system in these schools of thought. Socrates, who lived at the end of the fifth century B.C., was Plato’s teacher and a key figure in the rise of Athenian philosophy. Plato in turn taught Aristotle and the connections continue—Aristotle mentored Alexander the Great.
Even before the time of Socrates and Plato, several figures established themselves as philosophers in small islands and cities across the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. Parmenides, Zeno, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, and Thales all belong to this group of philosopher-teachers. Favorite themes include the principle of reality, the good; tranquility, compassion, selflessness, benevolence, the life worth being lived; the distinction between appearance and reality.
In the coming weeks we will look at Plato’s Leadership School—The Academy, Aristotle’s school—the Lyceum, and Zeno’s work on the stoa or the porch–and perhaps a few more.