Prudential Leadership

Jared Tomanek - Prudence


Sally is a blue chip recruit from one of the best business schools in the U.S.  She has been married for two years and recently had her first child.  She has been working at the XYZ Corporation for three years.   


Sally walked into her boss’ office last week with a career proposition.  Here is the scene:


She had given birth about three months ago to a beautiful baby girl named Ava.  She and her husband had planned on her return to the job after her maternity leave. After three weeks back to the office, Sally has been considering leaving her position all together so that she can stay at home with Ava.  This reoccurring thought continues to stress her, so she sets an appointment with her boss.


As a mother, her boss definitely understands the sacrifices a woman must make.  Her time at the office has already led to a premature weaning from breastfeeding, something she hoped she would be able to continue for a number of months.  She feels like she is missing some really important bonding times that she thinks her child and herself needs.  Though this scene is fabricated, it portrays an issue that my wife and I have experienced and I am sure many others.


There are a number of options that Sally’s boss can consider.  She can offer a few more months off so that the new mother can raise the child during the baby years.  She can propose working from home around her schedule.  She could look into offering some kind of onsite baby service for new mothers.  She could ridicule Sally for not being “safe”, lecture her on a woman\’s freedom to force herself into temporary sterilization,  then require Sally to choose between her family and work.  She could try cutting down Sally’s hours to part time so that she could still offer her valuable contributions to the company.


How is Sally’s boss going to know which one(s) to offer?


“an intellectual habit enabling us to see in any given juncture of human affairs what is virtuous and what is not, and how to come at the one and avoid the other.”


Prudence is an intellectual virtue.  A prudent person is able to find the correct response to the many human affairs that require our action.  According to St. Thomas Aquinas, prudence has three steps:

  1. Counsel: a person needs to rationally consider what needs to be done
  2. Judge: evaluate those things that were considered
  3. Follow-through: acting on what was properly evaluated


From the options that Sally’s boss could think of, it is easy to see one is wrong because the action is uncharitable.  The other actions can all be good possibilities.  Some of them may not work due to policies, finances, type of work, etc.  The boss will have to have to bring all the good options to the forefront, understand which ones have the most merit, and then commit the option to action.


Have you ever experienced a leader’s action that was not properly counseled or judged before an action was chosen?  Did he understand his fault and seek to make amends?


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