What Is Pragmatic Leadership?

A pragmatic person is someone who cares more about real-world things and facts than with ideas and theories. People who are pragmatic in their approach to life tend to see what works and what doesn’t work, and they base decisions on that. A pragmatic leader is a person who knows how to adapt to change and who understands how to use team members to achieve goals. A pragmatic leader knows how to balance vision and pragmatism in the best way possible for the organization.

The word pragmatic comes from the Greek roots prae, meaning “practical,” and meta, meaning “theoretical.” A philosophical movement that emerged in the United States at the end of the 19th century is known as pragmatism. The term reflects the philosophy of William James and John Dewey, who believed that truth should be measured by what is practical and useful.

It is also an approach to research. A pragmatist researcher will choose the best methodology to meet the needs of the project, and will often switch back and forth between deductive reasoning and induction. A pragmatist will also take into account the context in which a particular action occurs, such as the culture and circumstances of a conversation.

This type of thinking has been adapted in the business world to create leaders who can manage in the real world and who can help their organizations thrive. Leadership experts often point to a combination of traits that defines pragmatic leaders, such as being honest and open, being willing to try new methods, and being flexible to the needs of the organization.

Another key trait of pragmatic leaders is being able to make tradeoffs between theoretical ideal outcomes and what practical actions can actually be accomplished. A hypothetical example is a job applicant who wants the top position at a company, but can only get the lower position. An idealist would reject the job offer, but a pragmatist will accept it because it’s better than nothing and might lead to further opportunities down the road.

A lot of what we think about the world around us is pragmatic. For example, a long time ago, people realized that the stars went in loops as they moved across the sky. This information helped them to navigate the seas, even without landmarks on the horizon.

Other pragmatic ideas include Gricean Maxims, which are four general rules that seem to apply to most situations and most languages. They are: be concise, be clear, be truthful and be relevant. If you are aware of these rules, then you have a good understanding of everyday pragmatics and how to communicate in a useful way. These rules are based on the work of Paul Grice, an English philosopher of language. He also authored the book On Expression, which explores the use of language to convey meaning in communication and in writing. These ideas are still influential today and are an important part of pragmatism.