Existential Intelligence for Strategic Leadership

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15311 Can we put the question of Existential Intelligence for Strategic Leadership? Abstract The roots of the word existential are existence and exist. To exist means to live and so, to think about your existence means to think about your life and perhaps Life itself. In those moments when we are thinking about the meaning of our individual lives or the greater purpose and mission of our group, we are engaged in existential thinking. In this paper, we attempt to define and explain the existenti
  153111  Can we put the question of Existential Intelligence for StrategicLeadership? Abstract The roots of the word existential are existence and exist. To exist means to live and so,to think about your existence means to think about your life and perhaps Life itself. Inthose moments when we are thinking about the meaning of our individual lives or thegreater purpose and mission of our group, we are engaged in existential thinking. Inthis paper, we attempt to define and explain the existential intelligence. The initialmotivation has been given from the srcinal work of Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences, in which he firstly introduced the term. Additionally, the basic ideas of the philosophical movement of existentialism offered the foundations for thedevelopment of our thinking. The importance of existential thinking and its possibleimplications for leadership are also discussed.Search terms: existential intelligence, strategic leadership, authenticity 1. Introduction The aim of this paper is the exploration of the concept of existential intelligence andits impact in strategic leadership. ã   The first purpose of this paper would be to attempt to support that it isworthy to research and define the concept to existential intelligence. ã   Secondly, we will try to define it and ã   Finally, we will discuss propositions concerning the relation betweenexistential intelligence and strategic leadershipAs the given title suggests, our purpose is to arise the subject of existential thinking asan important component of human endeavor and to initiate a discussion concerningthe fundamental questions of human existence.  153112Over the past 20 years, the field of strategic management has becomeincreasingly concerned with top-level managers and their effects on strategyformulation and firm performance. Upper echelons theory is rooted in Child’s (1972) notion that top management’s decisions and choices impact firm performance. Thetheory has received considerable attention from a number of researchers who havedeveloped and expanded it under the rubric of strategic leadership (Canella &Monroe, 1997; Finkelstein & Hambrick, 1996; Hambrick & Mason, 1984). Theessence of the theory is that when facing complex and ambiguous situations, leadersmake choices in the basis of their values, beliefs and behavioral inclination(Finkelstein & Hambrick, 1996; Hitt & Tyler, 1991).Implicit in the above argument is the idea that organizations could beconsidered as a reflection of values, cognitions and emotions of top managers.Although many researchers have discussed the importance of personal values asdesirable modes of behavior in the study of charismatic leadership (Bass, 1985; Bass& Steidlmeier, 1999; Egri & Herman, 2000; Gardner & Avolio, 1998), there are stillissues that have left unexplored despite their potential effect on the upper echelonleadership area.Indeed, it can be argued that the field of strategic management hassystematically ignored to engage in studies that concern the exploration of the srcinsof personal values and beliefs of the leaders. What’s more, the number of the studiesthat investigate the role of universal values, such as freedom, equality in leadershipdevelopment is even lessened. An exception to this above normality is the work of Howard Gardner (1997) who argued that when leaders have questioned themselvesabout the meaning of life, the intricacies of existence and have provided answers tothese fundamental questions (what he called existential intelligence ), they are more  153113likely to apply and transport this meaningfulness at work, which in turn results inincreased levels of motivation and sense of well-being. Can we put the question of the Existential Intelligence? Despite the avoidance of the majority of scholars to engage directly in a questof definition and exploration of the concept of existential intelligence, there is a greatdeal of literature that uses the basic ideas of existentialism in the development of several theories. These theories integrate the precursor notions of existentialism with anumber of assertions advanced in several psychological theories of motivation andleadership. Following is a brief overview of these main theories along with anepigrammatic analysis of the basic notions of the philosophical movement of existentialism.The starting point of this overview will be an introduction to the fundamentalideas of existentialism. Existentialism is a philosophical movement in whichindividual human beings are understood as having full responsibility for creating themeanings of their own lives. The emphasis is put on individual existence, freedom and choice. A central proposition of existentialism (and especially in the Sartrean) is thatexistence precedes essence, that is a human being’s existence precedes and is morefundamental than any meaning which may be ascribed to human life; man definesreality. This is an inversion of a more traditional view, which was widely acceptedfrom the ancient Greeks to Hegel, that the central project of philosophy was to answerthe question “what is a human being?” (i.e. what is the human essence). Other tenetsassociated with existentialism are angst  , subjectivity of values and authenticity . Angstis the main characteristic of existence itself, when we face our contingence and theirrationality of our facts and choices.  153114One theory that has implied the presence of existential thinking is Maslow’sMotivation Theory (1943, 1970) and especially what it concerns the self-actualizingpersonality. According to Maslow (1970), human behavior is motivated by a set of basic needs, which can be ordered in a hierarchy, such that from all the non-satisfiedneeds, the one which is the lowest in the hierarchy will be the most active (Heylighen,1992). When all the lower needs (physiological, safety, love and belonging) aresatisfied, we are left with the highest need, the need for self-actualization. The moststriking features of self-actualizing persons are the accurate perception of reality (i.e.the ability to perceive people and events accurately and understand people in a fairminded way), the ability to remove themselves from the turmoil and keep calm in thechaos, the desire to self-improve and derive satisfaction from personal development.Moreover, it has been argued that self-actualizers tend to experience life in an intenseand also to have high degree of creativity (Heylighen, 1992; Maslow, 1943; McCrae& Costa, 1984). Self-actualizers are considered to be eager to undergo newexperiences, learn new ideas and skills, and try out new things. To sup up, self-actualizers can be thought of as people who see ethics as process of self-realization.Moreover, it can be argued that the recently developed theory of empowermentincludes notions of existentialism and/or existential thinking, such as attribution of meaning, choice and subjectivity. Hence, if we take a closer look at the fourdimensions of empowerment (Spreitzer (1997), we will see how these principles areimplemented: (1) meaning: an individual feels a sense of meaning when an activitycounts in his value system. Empowered individuals derive personal significance fromtheir work, (2) competence: empowered individuals have not only the needed skillsand abilities but also the confidence that they can perform successfully, (3) self-determination: empowered individuals have a sense of responsibility for and
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