Autonomous or heteronomous leader?

Giuseppe Ando
min read
Autonomous or heteronomous leader?

For some years now, the most outdated argument when it comes to leadership has been that relating to the role of rational logic in the decision-making process. Today we are fascinated by the idea that a bundle of emotions passes through people and that only this complex of sensations, more or less structured, should inspire leaders in the management of their collaborators.

There is a sort of providential "invisible hand" which, as Adam Smith believed for the economy, governs and regulates the behavior of the leader for the best. Personal emotional states, and therefore absolutely subjective, become a sort of ruler for the identification and correct management of the emotional states of others. All this without involving rationality, but simply through a mysterious emotional intelligence (the oxymoron is of embarrassing evidence) whose boundaries are not understood with respect to the dear and old intelligence "of the past". A leader would achieve their goals by simply implementing intuitive behaviors, indeed someone talks about instinctive behaviors.

Should one be an autonomous or heteronomous leader?

Autonomous or heteronomous leader? | peopleHum

William James, already in 1887 in "What is an instinct" gives a very clear definition of the concept of instinct:

“It is the ability to act in such a way as to produce certain ends but without the foreknowledge of those ends and without having learned what needs to be done”.

In practice, unexpectedly positive results are obtained, but which do not meet any logical criteria and, therefore, repeatable. In short, it is pure luck. Actually James refers to the simpler instincts, while for the more complex ones James refers to coordinated sequences resulting from a competition between the individual basic instincts.

But the point doesn't change. What makes a subject, therefore also a leader, truly responsible for their choices is the conscious and autonomous elaboration of ideas and concepts that feed a conviction and, therefore, a consequent behavior. Not that the emotional element isn't involved, it simply cannot be the most complex processing stage. An autonomous leader (from Greek autonomos  ( αὐτόνομος ), formed by  autos ( αὐτός ) that is " same " and the verb nemein  (νέμειν) that is "to govern"), so there must be own rules that are immune from purely emotional conditioning stimulated from the outside.

Emotions are the complex of sensations that drag the subject, making him not autonomous leader, but heteronomous. Mind you, emotions are the indispensable heritage of our humanity. and they help us to communicate and "feel" the universe around us, but not to understand it. The wonder that crosses us when we look at a starry sky (Kantian theme) is the expression of our emotionality, but the study and knowledge of same sky are possible only with a rational method. A leader does not have to be a computer and even if he wanted to, he could not be.

As Searle rightly noted: "Computer programs, in fact, fail to capture the specificity of mental phenomena,their intrinsic intentionality, that is, their being provided with semantics, their referring to contents of meaning and extra-mental entities, characteristics that no program, based by definition on purely syntactic and formal manipulations of symbols and strings of symbols, is able to replicate. "The complexity of human nature is not even in question, what needs attention is the importance of forming a generation of leaders who, to the extent that they are aware and rational, feel responsible for their actions and modify their behavior in accordance with a set of motivations based on valid arguments.based by definition on purely syntactic and formal manipulations of symbols and strings of symbols, it is able to replicate.

"The complexity of human nature is not even in question, what needs attention is the importance of forming a generation of leaders"

About the author

Giuseppe Ando is a C-Level & Executive Coach - Associate Partner at the acclaimed Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching. With a career that presides at the crux of the Venn diagram of Passion, Skills, and Experience, Giuseppe’s reputation as top executive coach has spanned decades. Among his many accolades, he is also recognized for his unique ability to understand and inspire those he coaches to excel professionally and personally while also delivering their organization’s desired results.

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