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Gervase, Teacher, India. September 2006

We have similar background: Philosophy and Psychology. Your thoughts on Managerial Psychology and Philosophy would certainly help me in my attempt to develop syllabus for 1 year Diploma program. Thank you.

Gervase, Teacher, India.

Thank you for this deeply relevant question! It is a treat for me to reflect on how Philosophy relates to Managerial Psychology.

I’d like to start off by letting the world know that Philosophy is the root discipline of all the arts and sciences from the Physics to the Psychology we now have today. Without the great ancient-medieval Greek thinkers, the great Indian mystics and mathematicians, and the great Arab astronomers and physicians, we would simply not be who we are right now. The essence of the human species has been intelligent and conscious thought-experience. Back in the day, there was just one subject of study i.e. Philosophy, the love of wisdom. The favorite topic during the Greeks was that of Ethics, Gods, and Morality which still serve as strong principles today. Then came the Enlightenment era where scientific rationality ruled. The philosophical study called Metaphysics, which asks the fundamental question of “what is real”, gave birth to Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. The study of Epistemology, which asks “how do we come to know”, served as the root of modern Psychology. Existentialism which asks “what is the meaning of existence” laid the foundation to much of our past and present religious interpretations. With the industrial revolution, management psychology was born through the time-motion studies of Fredrick Taylor. Managerial psychology peaked at the time of the world wars to increase the quality of recruits in the armed forces, and gradually was applied to industrial corporations. Ok enough of the history lesson but the point of it is to realize that we need to know how we got here and trace the events that shaped our thinking. Likewise, when you try to assess anything whether it is business or a personal issue, it is always helpful to know the history behind a current situation to identify its influencing factors.

Managerial psychology as you call it is nothing but the deep study of human nature and interaction within the workplace environment. Essentially, the link between philosophy and management lies in the development of LEADERSHIP. Leadership covers all the elements of philosophical humanity including ethics, personal commitment, fulfillment, happiness, strategy, intellect, goal-setting, implementation, innovation, self-development, and motivation. Every employee needs to be a leader, no matter where they are on the organization chart. Happy, creative, fulfilled, and risk-taking employees eventually build a high-performing organization. No matter what strategies and systems are in place, if employees are not their own leaders then corporations are not doing enough to secure their future in the business world. Organizations often lay the blame on employees for not excelling at their jobs when it is the lack of direction from the management that is the root cause of this. In the Strategic HR Success Model I created, it is the organization’s primary responsibility to create a culture that unleashes its employees’ excellence. This is a deeply philosophical issue even though most of our contemporary managers do not want to own up to this responsibility, one that could make the significant difference for an organization. Personal ownership is the hallmark of a truly great leader, and this applies even to the lady or gentleman who cleans the washrooms in your high-rise office.

My core message would be this: Managerial Psychology is ultimately linked to Philosophy by way of Leadership. The essence of leadership lies in the potential of every human being to exercise his/her free will and make a difference for the self and the organization. Exercising one’s free will is connected to how one feels about oneself. This is deeply philosophical, and most people have never even thought about who they want to be as a person. This poses a tremendous liability to developing future leaders.

As far as designing a curriculum on Managerial Psychology, Dr. Peter Koestenbaum’s work on The Leadership Diamond should be required reading for your students. I would also recommend the works of Robin Sharma who writes quite eloquently on leadership development in a way that students would find fun. Take a look at the Books of All Time link to help you develop material for critical analysis by your students. In addition, the teaching method itself needs to be dramatically altered to include sessions on philosophical reflection, and explorations about what it takes to be a true and effective leader. Moreover, the traditional lecture-style format with dogmatic text books, resembling a typical top-down bureaucratic organizational structure, desperately needs to get thrown out the window to allow for more free-flowing knowledge and learning through introspective experience.


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