Dr. Frank Giuseffi talks about using the Socratic method in leadership.

“I Know That I Know Nothing”

By Taylor Chernisky on Jun 1, 2017
headshot dr giuseffiDr. Frank Giuseffi
To this day, classic Greek philosopher Socrates is credited as one of the fathers of modern-day philosophy. One of his teachings, the Socratic Method, is still used in education, especially for those studying law. But could this method have other uses outside of the law classroom? IGI Global recently talked with Dr. Frank Giuseffi, author of “Ancient Thinking and Modern Challenges: Socratic Education in the 21st Century” from the Handbook of Research on Advancing Critical Thinking in Higher Education, about how the Socratic method could be beneficial to leaders and why it should be taught in leadership training.
IGI GLOBAL: What is the Socratic method?

DR. FRANK GIUSEFFI: The Socratic method is a type of dialogue that engages discussants in a dialectical exchange about ideas through probing questions. The intention is to create a dialogic situation where searching and questioning is essential in moving a discussion forward.

How does this method impact leadership?

The Socratic method impacts leadership in that it uses and develops the essential qualities of 21st century leadership: critical thinking, social cohesion, active listening and problem-solving.

How does the Socratic method and leadership relate to currently trending topics?

Modernity in this century has rightly advanced the concepts of freedom and self-actualization among peoples and societies across the globe. The heterogeneity of communities and the rise of technology has created profound opportunities for personal and societal growth. However, these same phenomena engendered by modernity has also added to the balkanization of peoples and rise of hyper-individualism. Leaders of today and of the future must navigate through this interesting tension by applying the skills of critical thinking, teaming, active listening and problem-solving. The knowledge and practice of the Socratic method in leading people can bolster these skills, helping address the major challenges of today.

How would you recommend implementing the Socratic method into leadership training?

First, there would be an introduction of this method by looking directly at the original source, Socrates. The leader-trainer would educate leader-trainees on the philosopher Socrates and discuss specific examples of Socrates’ method by looking at two dialogues of Plato, the Meno and the Republic. Second, the leader-trainer would recruit Socratic practitioners to model the method and offer opportunities for leader-trainees to analyze the experience(s). Third, the leader-trainer would discuss the theory and practice of the Socratic method with the leader-trainees referencing the modeling of the Socratic dialogue that the leader-trainees viewed. Fourth, leader-trainers would provide case stories to the leader-trainees that would require Socratic dialogue in order to identify and/or solve the problems presented in the case story.

What benefits does the Socratic method have for leaders?

There are numerous benefits that come from sustained use of the Socratic method for leaders. First, leaders will develop their critical thinking skills by continually asking questions, analyzing ideas, and challenging assumptions. Second, leaders will listen to their people, creating an environment in the organization where the collaborative process is important. Third, they will understand the importance of group dynamics, being attentive to civility, group cohesion and respect towards everyone. Lastly, leaders will understand that solving problems is a team effort that requires dialogue and respect for others’ ideas.
A sincere thanks to Dr. Giuseffi for taking the time to speak with us about how the Socratic method could be implemented into leadership training and why this is important. For additional information on leadership, please take a moment to review the publications below:

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