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Philosopher Kings of the 21st Century.

Something in me fell in love with the idea of the Philosopher King when I first learned the Platonic concept in an introductory philosophy course as a college freshman at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

Plato was an idealist. He thought ideas were more real than things. I don’t go that far, but I have a deep and educated respect for the power of ideas to change things.

Plato imagined the ideal kingdom, and saw the kingdoms of his time as poor reflections of this idea. He said that for the ideal kingdom to come into being, philosophers must become kings or “those now called kings must learn to genuinely and adequately philosophize.”

Marvin Kohl, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, Introduction to Philosophy. This one educational moment focused my restless search for constructive leadership down to a career-long quest to work with philosopher kings and queens, in the hope of perhaps one day growing into a philosopher king myself.
My childhood in the 60s and 70s gave me ample evidence of just how bad things could get when “kings” don’t genuinely and adequately philosophize, or to bring that down to Earth a bit, when the wrong ideas rule.

To me the brilliant change agents, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, social entrepreneurs and movement leaders were the philosopher kings of my time. These people simply thought better. They thought better of and about people. They thought better about business. The developed distinctive cultures based on distinct ideas. By force of their better thinking, they managed to become kings – true rulers of their domains – and while many of them did well financially, the primary thrust of their rule was generous and generative. They ruled not just for themselves and not just for market success, but in service to an inspiring idea above commercial intent.

My whole career, I have tried to sit at the table with these philosopher kings, and when not there, to read and study their approaches. This has been my own philosophy.

Within the context of democracy and a free market, businesses and organizations are the true kingdoms, and leaders with controlling authority are the modern kings and queens.

Their philosophies change the world.

I would rather work with an Elon Musk who says, “I see that the future might not look like the one I’ve imagined, and I get angry, and then I determine to do something about it.” Or Gabrielle Bernstein, founder of the Women’s Entrepreneurial Network who says, “My mission in this lifetime is to help guide my generation to shift their search for happiness from the outside to the inside.” In short, I’d rather serve with philosopher kings and queens than any of the thousands of also-rans who are just in it for the money, attention, respect, fame, toys or whatever.

I’ve noticed that these philosopher kings are both more idealist AND more practical. They abhor the inefficiency of doing things for no good reason – and, let’s face it, most organizations are full of just such things.

I’ve tried to put into practice everything I’ve learned from working along side world-changing philosopher kings and queens. That’s why no one has ever filled in a time-sheet at DiMassimo Goldstein – it’s simply a waste of time, and has nothing to do with our reason for existing, which is to add value and impact, not costs and busywork.

Our mission of Inspiring Action has come out of that. Our belief that we’re not in the advertising business – we’re in the behavior change business, and sometimes we use advertising – has come out of that too. And finally, the 10 Signs of an Organization That Is Inspiring Action is the distillation of decades of studying contemporary philosopher kings and queens. If you want to check it out, there’s a PDF you can download here.