The case for observing the four cardinal virtues— prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice—can be traced back to Plato. Thousands of years later, they are still the best formula for leading a successful and ethical life, especially when integrated with the spiritual virtues of faith, hope, and charity.
If that message wasn’t an especially unusual one to hear delivered on the campus of The Catholic University of America, the speaker certainly was: His Serene Highness Alois-Konstantin Prince of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg.
The German prince, a highly successful businessman and one of the most prominent Catholics in his country, delivered a lecture, “Business Ethics, Law and Religion: The Importance of Virtues for Leadership in Business and Public Life,” in the university’s Pryzbyla Student Center on Sept. 7. The lecture was the first in a series titled "CEOs speak on business, ethics, and religion" sponsored by the Charles Koch Foundation.
“You can start changing your life and start changing the world by observing these seven virtues,” the 70 year-old royal advised his audience, which spilled to overflowing.
“Make it possible to see your faith in the mirror every day. That’s what I call courage,” he said.
Prince Alois-Konstantin is among the most highly respected business leaders in Germany. The prince is a Knight of Malta and has been decorated with Germany’s Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit. Since 2009, he has served as the director of Federated Asset Management GmbH of Frankfurt, a leading investment products company. Earlier in his career, the prince held appointments in the private banking industry, with Gulf Oil, and with the Löwenstein group of companies.
His appearance at Catholic University was organized jointly by the Columbus School of Law and the Department of Business and Economics.
By turns charming, erudite, and funny, the prince spent some time discussing his own career, offering examples of how observance of the seven virtues has helped to guide him in personal relations and professional decisions.
“Leaders and CEO’s should know and live by these virtues. Being unethical hurts your business really hard,” he advised.
Businesses should stress not only values, but virtues as well, said the prince. The German industrial giant Daimler, for example, equips new employees with a handbook that talks about business precepts based on Catholic social teaching.
His subject was serious, but Prince Alois-Konstantin displayed a self-deprecating sense of humor that the audience appeared to enjoy.
He met his wife Anastasia, Princess of Prussia, at a dance when he was but eighteen and she only sixteen. Already suspecting that he may have met the woman he would someday marry, he peppered her with questions about values, philosophy, and life.
At the end of the two-hour dance, she had a single question in return, said the prince. “Can I now dance with someone else?”
Before he departed campus, Prince Alois-Konstantin stopped by the office of Catholic University Provost Dr. James Brennan, upon whose walls hangs a large portrait of Pope Leo XIII.
The prince was particularly interested in viewing the portrait due to a family connection. His great-grandfather had personally spoken to the pontiff about his inclination to pursue a monastic life. Pope Leo XIII advised the young man instead to get married, start a family, and focus on strengthening Catholicism among the laity of Germany.
Prince Alois-Konstantin appreciated the papal counseling - without which, he pointed out, he would not exist!