10 things that every great leader should know and apply, according to Marcus Aurelius.

How to be a great leader according to Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome from from 161 to 180 A.D.

In modern days enormous amounts of books have been written and are being written on leadership. Many writers aspire and proclaim to have new insights, to give the ultimate guidance to the qualities leaders need, to be really great. But how new, how innovating are these insights exactly?


Sometimes you just need the classics to learn what is important to know. Marcus Aurelius' book 'Meditations' is such a gem of seemingly timeless wisdom. Written around 170 A.D., the book was a diary, a conversation of the writer with himself, and never meant to be published. Its sincerity and modesty are deeply moving and impressive. Every leader can learn from Marcus what it means to be great and wat is needed to become a leader that is trustworthy and really committed to the good of others. Many world leaders have read and used 'Meditations' as a guideline to good leadership. The ideas Marcus described almost two thousand years ago, could have been written today.


If leaders would apply his guidelines, the world would be a different place. According to Marcus, 10 things that every great leader should know and apply in leading are:

  1. People exist to help one another, came into the world for the sake of one another.
  2. Always remember that every person – your employee, your superior, your enemy – is just a human being that has to eat and sleep, like you.
  3. Realize that many mistakes are the result of ignorance. If you need to correct mistakes, do it in an educational way.
  4. Leaders should take their leadership role seriously, but never feel godlike. Always realize that you also can make mistakes.
  5. Never judge quickly. Careful consideration of an issue can give you different insights.
  6. Never lose your temper or become irrational: learn to control yourself.
  7. Other people can only hurt you if you let them.
  8. Avoid negative thoughts, even when disaster strikes. They only keep you from addressing the challenges that arise from disaster.
  9. Be kind, practice kindness.
  10. It is foolish and 'the act of a tyrant' to try to change bad people or try to persuade them to treat you differently.


Doesn't sound very old-fashioned, does it?


Reflect on these guidelines. Do they appeal to you? How easy do you think it is to follow these directions? Through the centuries many leaders have proclaimed the validity of Marcus Aurelius' observations, but not many have been able to follow in his footsteps. Marcus Aurelius did live according to his ideas. He was modest enough not to try to impose his ideas on others, but set an example by living and ruling according to his convictions. No small feat! We are lucky that an admirer found the diary after Marcus' death and decided to publish them contrary to Marcus' own wishes. Want to learn more? Visit our website and keep reading our posts.


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Pura Vida.