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Learning to govern with Aristotle (I)

One of the few issues we all agree on is the passionate pursuit of happiness. No one, unless he is nuts, intends to be miserable.

Nichomachean Ethics (this work was probably named after Aristotle’s son, Nichomachus who edited his writings, 384 BC- 322 BC). This is the first consistent attempt at a scientific exposition of a theory of human virtues and vices. It addresses this issue along with many other essential ones, including that on the government of individuals and organizations. These pages were written to accompany Aristotle's oral lectures and they do not aim to bring topics to a close but rather to open up paths of enquiry, because as he himself points out, "The ignorant man pronounces, the wise man questions and reflects ".

Given the relevance of this sensational book, which lays down the conceptual foundation for anyone who wants to become a coach, I spent thousands of hours editing a version for LID, the publisher, so that it could be understood by anyone educated in the 21st century.

Here are some of the topics addressed in this work, organized into ten tomes, by the father of Western philosophy, alongside the corresponding management skills, which I have been able to corroborate with my partner and friend, José Aguilar:

Management skills

Virtues in action


Walking the talk

Selecting advisors

Prudence (VI, 4 and 6)


Truthfulness (IV, 7)



Ambition (IV, 4 3)




Sociability (IV, 6)


Temperance (III, 11-12; VII, 9)

Active listening

Transmitting trust and security

Affability (IV, 8)


Courage (III, 7-10)


Friendship (VIII, IX)


Based on the version I did for LID, Aristotle reminds that, “Neither virtues nor vices are passions, for we are not described as good or evil because of our passions, but because of our virtues or vices. We are neither praised nor blamed for our passions (for the man who feels fear or anger is not praised, nor is the man who simply feels anger blamed, except for the man who feels this in certain circumstances), but we are praised or blamed for our virtues or vices. We feel anger or fear without prior choice, but virtues are outcomes of a choice, for they are not acquired without involving choice.” That is precisely why it is largely within our reach to become, or not, a good manager, a leader hopefully.

The challenge is not straightforward, because many live at the mercy of their passions, pursue pleasures or whims, and flee from effort. What reasoning can be used to reform these people? It is not possible to modify vices acquired, through mere reflection. To become leaders, we must cultivate get-up-and-go, the fruit of a healthy complicity between feelings, will, and reason. That way we will be happy and able to help others to be happy.

The great challenge seething in Aristotelian thinking is to do good well: to achieve solid results without harming anyone (to be continued).

Javier Fernández Aguado

Javier Fernández Aguado es pensador y speaker; considerado uno de los mayores expertos contemporáneos en Gobierno de personas y organizaciones, además de ser uno de los conferenciantes más solicitados a nivel internacional. Es es Director de MindValue, firma especializada en servicios profesionales para la Alta Dirección, miembro del Top Ten Management Spain y Premio Peter Druker.

Javier Fernández Aguado is a thinker and speaker, considered one of the leading contemporary experts in managing people and organizations, as well as being one of the most sought after speakers internationally. He is a Director of MindValue—a company specialized in professional services for C-level management, a member of Top Ten Management Spain and the Peter Drucker Award.

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