Past Program

Feb 01 - Feb 06, 2003

Salzburg Seminar - Fetzer Institute Leadership Project: Political Leadership


Whether serving the public as an elected official or working for the public good in other capacities, public servants are sometimes subject to tensions between their private values and their public responsibilities. Public accountability is meant to restrain the exercise of personal prerogative; yet, the pressures of re-election or re-appointment can just as easily lead to compromises of convenience, rather than compacts of conscience. What is the role of the ethical, moral or spiritual in the exercise of public duty? This session will examine the relationship of private values to public life in various organizational, national and cultural contexts. To what degree are questions about public and private values shared among cultures? How do leaders balance personal convictions and public obligations? To what degree is their ability to balance these considerations part of what is called “integrity”?


This session will ask public servants to think about the values and commitments that motivated their choices to enter public life. How are those values reflected in the work they do today? How might that work better reflect those core values? The session will seek to identify the “inner” resources politicians and others draw upon as they face challenges in fulfilling their public responsibilities, and will investigate the role spiritual, moral or ethical self-awareness plays in sustaining the strength and vision of such individuals in different cultures, if such awareness does so at all. How does a sense of integrity or personal authenticity affect the ability to lead, and how can those qualities be mobilized to generate more meaningful relationships between public figures and the populations they serve?


This special session of the Salzburg Seminar, in partnership with the Fetzer Institute, will examine various tools and methods for assisting in the exploration or cultivation of these inner resources. Special attention will be paid to leadership in public contexts and to how public servants in different cultures rely on notions of the spiritual, moral or ethical.


The purpose of the Leadership Project is to focus specifically on these often under-explored aspects of leadership by bringing together participants from around the world and providing a framework that will allow them to reflect deeply and thoughtfully on the ethical, moral, or spiritual aspects of their own work. Previous sessions in this series focused on local and community leadership; on educational issues; and on relationships and healthcare.


Rather than providing a prescriptive definition of leadership, this project will seek to bring together people with diverse approaches in order to identify and better understand those internal aspects of leadership that are universal and those that are distinctive to particular cultural, social, or historical contexts. It is hoped that this project will contribute to the personal and professional growth of all participants.


In order to allow the session participants to explore their own leadership and reflect on the internal qualities of good leadership across cultures, each session will be structured around a variety of activities including presentations, roundtable discussions, work in small groups, case studies, and time for meditation and reflection. Facilitated self-assessment exercises, readings about leaders and leadership in different cultures, the use of narrative and the sharing of personal leadership experiences will all form part of the process of exploration. The process is intended to provide participants with a useful and relevant framework for “looking within” and exploring their own leadership both during and after the session.


Participation in this project is by invitation.

For more information, please contact Matt T. Reed at