Original Research - Special Collection: South African Science and Religion Forum

Does meaning matter? Nietzsche, Jung, and implications for global leadership

Martina L. Mabille, Yolande Steenkamp
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 3 | a6284 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i3.6284 | © 2021 Martina L. Mabille, Yolande Steenkamp | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 August 2020 | Published: 22 April 2021

About the author(s)

Martina L. Mabille, The Unit For Reformational Theology and the Development of South African Society, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Yolande Steenkamp, Department of Business Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


The Global Risks 2035 Update by the Atlantic Council, despite its clinical focus on economic, environmental and security challenges, nevertheless suggests that shared global meaning might have a role to play in enabling humanity to set off on a more beneficial trend for its foreseeable global future. The realisation that the complex challenges facing humanity is existential as much as it is pragmatic necessitates trans-disciplinary engagement and collaborative research ventures. This article contributed a trans-disciplinary reflection by bringing philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and psychologist-philosopher Carl Jung in dialogue with critical leadership studies within the broader framework of the science–religion dialogue of this special volume. Pointing to the awareness in leadership studies of how meaning, narrative and shared vision enable greater effectiveness and collaboration, we explore nihilism as cultural problem to be addressed in order to create meaning that fosters global collaborative action. From the viewpoint of the Global Risk 2035 Update and its gloomy strategic foresight of a newly bipolarised world or further descent into chaos, the article brought Nietzsche’s idea of the Last Man into dialogue with Carl Jung’s emphasis on the need for a collective myth to reverse the decline of civilisation and enable humanity to chart a course towards unprecedented global collaboration.

Contribution: The article contributes from a transdisciplinary perspective to the question of meaning in leadership. Drawing from the contributions of Nietzsche and Jung, it argues that shared myth and shared meaning is vital to address the complex global challenges that leadership is called to address. This philosophical reflection on the crisis of nihilism contributes to the growing awareness in critical leadership studies that meaning-making is critical to effective leadership.


leadership; meaning; myth; meta-narrative; Nietzsche; Jung; Death of God; nihilism; Vocatus atque non vocatus; deus aderit.


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