Posts by Sandra J. Peart

Peart on Leadership

Jonathan B. Wight

Sandra Peart, co-founder of this blog, published today an interesting op-ed in The Washington Post, "Overhauling how we teach leadership" (February 12).

Peart's thesis is that

"we spend too much time bemoaning the fact that our leaders aren't all really good people. Instead, we need to spend more time looking at whether we have good norms for choosing our leaders and holding them accountable, and good processes from which leadership emerges and functions ethically."

She goes on:

"It's time for those of us who teach and write about leadership explicitly to acknowledge the essential difference between studying leaders and studying leadership…. [T]he latest research indeed treats leadership as a phenomenon much more complex than the person who holds authority….

"We need to recognize and help our students appreciate that leaders operate within a set of culturally determined norms, within a particular temporal and spatial context…. The problem with using leaders as a starting point for studying leadership is that it draws attention away from the study of institutions, norms and rules within which leadership functions….

"Leadership is complex and requires many lenses to understand it. Psychology is helpful, yes, but so are history and philosophy, science and economics. It's time to recognize that leadership is more capacious than the study of leaders and followers. We must cut this Gordian knot."

So we need to peel back the layers of human interaction to uncover where and how moral norms and institutions arose and evolved. Sounds like a job for… Adam Smith!

To emphasize Sandra's point, watch the new Lincoln movie. Daniel Day-Lewis does a wonderful job depicting Lincoln's approach to leadership, understood by and colored by the time and place of mid-19th century America.

Ethics symposium for undergraduates

The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University is sponsoring an Undergraduate Ethics Symposium April 8-10, 2010.  This conference is shaped around a series of workshops in which students present to one another their best work on a subject of ethical concern.  I write to invite you to encourage your faculty to bring this event to the attention of their students.  A Call for Essays and Creative Writing Projects is attached, and a tentative schedule for the symposium, which will be frequently updated, is available on our website: Let me say at the outset that we hope to receive thoughtful and insightful essays and creative writing works which explore, analyze and examine ethical issues in a variety of ways.  While writings on all areas of ethical concern are welcome, we encourage submissions focusing on Self-Interest, Altruism and Morality:  Evolutionary, Religious and Philosophical Perspectives.

This is an honors symposium, and those students whose works are received by the February 1 deadline and accepted for inclusion in the conference program by panels of DePauw faculty members will have all of their expenses paid for the conference.  DePauw will cover travel expenses (up to $400), lodging and food for each conference participant.  The group will be relatively small; we hope to have 20-30 students from a variety of colleges and universities.  The seminars in which the works will be discussed will consist of seven to ten students each.

Visiting Scholar for Leadership and Ethics

The Jepson School of Leadership Studies is accepting applications for the position of the Zuzana Simoniova Visiting Scholar in Leadership and Ethics for 2010-11. This program, made possible by a generous gift from the Ukrop family, is designed to give visiting scholars the opportunity to develop courses, to design programs, or to conduct research. Visiting scholars may be new Ph.D.s or experienced scholars who hold a Ph. D. in an academic area related to the study of leadership and ethics.  Scholars from newly formed democracies are encouraged to apply.  Applicants should explain in a cover letter how their research, teaching and future plans relate to the scholarship that they would pursue as a visitor at Jepson.

The Visiting Scholar will be in residence at the University of Richmond in order to pursue his or her own advanced research related to leadership and ethics.  Successful applicants will receive a research stipend. Candidates should apply at

Call for papers: Adam Smith Review symposium on Anglo-American capitalism

Sandra Peart

Is there a future for the robust sort of capitalism favoured by Adam Smith or have we reached a limit to Anglo-American capitalism as the engine of human betterment?  Over the last few decades scholars from many points of view have found the basis for a uniquely defensible position in Smith's work.  It is therefore appropriate that the Adam Smith Review proposes a symposium devoted to the theme: "Is Anglo-American capitalism passing away?"  We are particularly interested in contributions that view current economic events through a lens informed by Smith's teaching on institutions, money and economic growth.  Please send proposals and suggestions for contributions to Sandra J. Peart, Dean, Jepson School of Leadership Studies ([email protected]) by October 20, 2009; full papers to be submitted for refereeing by January 15, 2010.

Ethics and Economics - a start

I had something ready to remark on when I got a chance and in the meantime started reading papers today for my class, Competition, Cooperation and Choice.  A statement appeared in a paper by a very good student:  "From the economic point of view [doing x] does not make any sense but still people do it all the time."  My strong sense is that if people do x (at least if many people do x or if one person repeatedly does x) doing x makes sense.  So economists may wish to think about how we teach our students to compartmentalize. Instead of telling them to put aside economics and think about how to explain the decision, can we teach our students that economic actors are a much richer set of individuals than we have acknowledged at least since the latter half of the 20th century?

Jonathan wrote that economic actors have ethical beliefs.  Economists sometimes acknowledge beliefs but haven't given adequate consideration to their motivational force.  If beliefs and ethical presuppositions motivate, then an economics that takes those into account may make a great deal of sense. This makes for a sort of Smithian analysis, the Smith of both TMS and WoN (the Smith without Das Adam Smith Problem) and it's what we hope to talk more about here.