"Transforming ideas into action, values into operation, and philosophy into practice – those are the ultimate goals of the seminar."
- Prof. Dr. Carol Gluck, George Samson Professor, Columbia University
How would you explain to someone who does not know the Aspen Seminar, what the main idea behind it is?
The Aspen Seminar remains true to its founding principle of seventy years ago that “values-based leadership” makes for a good workplace, a good society, and a good life. Since there is no universal answer to fundamental questions, the seminar proceeds through conversation: conversation with ideas in classic texts of the past and selected contemporary writings, conversation among the seminar participants, and an ongoing inner conversation within each person. Transforming ideas into action, values into operation, and philosophy into practice – those are the ultimate goals of the seminar.
What would you recommend, how should participants prepare to benefit from the seminar?
The seminar demands two commitments of participants: careful reading of the texts beforehand and engaged discussion with fellow participants during the seminar. Ideas matter but so do the human connections made over the course of the seminar, both in the classroom and during meals, walks, and other activities.
What would you say differentiates the Aspen Leadership Seminar from other leadership seminars?
The Aspen Seminar works with texts, from Aristotle to Martin Luther King and Vaclav Havel, to spark discussion about such basic issues as the nature of human nature, of good government, of the relation between individuals and society, of tensions between economic, political, and social goods. Not a manual for leaders, but an opportunity to think about the ideas and values that inform good leadership. The seminar uses the readings as a springboard for collective and individual reflection which is quite personal, takes time, and again later proved invaluable for the participants in their lives and work.
Climate change is advancing quickly, societal cohesion is eroding, and the current global health crisis is not yet under control. The world is confronting several global crises at once. In this respect, should we rethink our understanding of leadership in Western liberal democracies to effectively deal with crises in the future?
While it is true that the world today faces enormous challenges, from rising inequality and illiberal governments to climate change, the nature of
leadership required to address these issues is likely not so different from successful leadership in the past. The task at hand is rather to identify and then seek to rectify the structural
impediments, arrangements of power, and habits of mind that prevent meaningful change. It is easy to criticize today’s leaders but harder and more necessary and effective to find ways to lead