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Exploring the multiple contributions of the arts and humanities to leadership

October 2020 – This working paper summarises three emerging narratives about the distinctive contribution of the arts and humanities to leadership.

Download the working paperExploring the contributioins of the arts and humanities to leadership

One of the consequences of the global pandemic has been a heightened awareness of the importance of science, technology and data in responding to global crises. Moreover, it is widely recognised that Covid-19 has accelerated significantly the shift to digital technologies and services – across sectors as diverse as commerce, health, education, finance, manufacturing and ICT, catalysing what has been termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things and quantum computing fundamentally altering the way we live, work and relate to one another, it is easy to see how science and technology are critical to future leadership.

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), in partnership with the University of Cambridge School of Arts and Humanities, undertook to explore more deeply the ways in which the arts and humanities might inform future leadership. The project interviewed 20 faculty members from a range of disciplines across Architecture and History of Art, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Classics, Divinity, English, History, Modern and Medieval Languages, Philosophy and the Language Centre at the University of Cambridge. The aim was to gather diverse insights across these varying fields and consider how these insights might inform leadership responses to some of the most pressing and profound challenges and opportunities facing society.

This working paper summarises three emerging narratives about the distinctive contribution of the arts and humanities:

  1. Navigating complexity, uncertainty and the unknown
  2. The importance of climbing into other worlds
  3. Exploring what it is to ‘be human’

The paper serves as a timely reminder for those in business, government or civil society, that the development of leaders based on a narrow privileging of one particular discipline – be that economics, or science, or technology – might not cultivate the capabilities that are needed to navigate the complexity, nuance and ethics of contemporary societal issues. Not only is there a need to cultivate a genuinely diverse workforce that is able to bring empathy, creativity and the capacity for moral judgement alongside technical and scientific dimensions, there is also the need to value the academic disciplines that nurtured that very diversity in how we see, process and engage with the world around us – for the sake of better organisations, and for the sake of a better future for us all.

 

Author and acknowledgements

The author of this working paper is Dr Louise Drake, Fellow, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

The author would like to thank Professor Christopher Young, Head of School of Arts and Humanities, and Lindsay Hooper, Executive Director for Education, CISL, for commissioning and overseeing this project, as well as those who were interviewed from the School of Arts and Humanities: (in alphabetical order) Professor Mikael Adolphson; Dr Clare Chambers; Professor Steven Connor; Professor Simon Goldhill; Dr Priya Gopal; Professor Douglas Hedley; Dr Ying Jin; Professor Geoffrey Khan; Dr Simone Kotva; Professor Rae Langton; Dr Jenny Mander; Professor Martin Millett; Professor Catherine Pickstock; Professor Huw Price; Professor Paul Russell; Professor Ianthi Tsimpli; Professor Tim Whitmarsh; Professor Clair Wills; and Jocelyn Wyburd.

Citing this report

Drake, L. (2020). Exploring the multiple contributions of the arts and humanities to leadership. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

 


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Published: October 2020

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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.