Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective. Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole.
The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius ruled from 161 to 180 A.D. and has maintained the reputation for being the ideal wise leader whom Plato called a "philosopher king."
His book "Meditations" has inspired leaders for centuries because of its timeless wisdom about human behavior. It's a collection of personal writings from the chaotic last decade of his life. This turmoil inspired him to develop his interpretation of Stoic philosophy, which focused on accepting things out of one's control and maintaining mastery over one's emotions.
Here are 10 rules, as prescribed by Marcus Aurelius, that every great leader should know and practice.
1. Understand that people exist to help one another. Mankind was meant to live in harmony, “That we came into the world for the sake of one another.”
2. Be mindful of others’ humanity. Every person has dignity and pride.
3. Realize that many mistakes, even egregious ones, are the result of ignorance.
Punishment or chastisement should thus be done in an educational way.
4. Do not overly exalt yourself. “You’re just like them.”
5. Avoid quick judgments of others’ actions. “A lot of things are means to some other end. You have to know an awful lot before you can judge other people’s actions with real understanding.”
6. Maintain self-control. You can choose to spend your time and energy languishing over things that have already happened, or you can choose to be calm and address any problems thatarise.
7. Recognize that others can hurt you only if you let them. The only actions that should truly hurt you are things you do that are shameful, since you are in control of your own self-worth and values.
8. Know that pessimism can easily overtake you. “How much more damage anger and grief do than the things that cause them.”
9. Practice kindness. Sincere kindness is “invincible” and more powerful than any negative transgression.
10. Do not expect bad people to exempt you from their destructive ways. It is “the act of a tyrant” to think that you can try to change these kinds of people or persuade them to treat you differently.
Becoming a great leader doesn’t mean that you have to incorporate all of these rules at once. Focus on one or two at a time; each incremental improvement will make you more effective. It’s okay if you “act“ some of these qualities at first. The more you practice, the more instinctive it will become, and the more you’ll internalize your new leadership style.
Whether you are in a leadership position or are aspiring to be a better business leader, I would recommend the teachings in Meditations as a guide in your journey to develop yourself and others.
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