What Can a 1,800-Year-Old Book Teach You About Leadership? Turns Out, A Lot

Marcus Aurelius was the emperor of Rome from 161 AD to 180 AD. During his time as the leader of Rome, he was the most powerful person in the world. Though massive power corrupted many leaders throughout history, Marcus is widely documented as being a noble leader with strong moral character.

His book, Meditations, has been read by countless leaders spanning over centuries. He documented parts of his life and how he worked to manage his emotions and perceptions of the world around him. His personal growth throughout the book is paralleled by his growth as a leader. Aurelius never intended for his writing to be released, giving it a sense of purity throughout the pages. It’s stoicism at its finest.

The prose is full of leadership lessons which still apply today. For the sake of this article, you’ll be exposed to three.

1. Perception is Reality

It’s often not what’s happened to your situation but rather how you interpret it that decides how you move forward. Aurelius highlights this when he says, “how we learn: by looking at each thing, both the parts and whole. Keeping in mind that none of them interpret how we perceive it.”

As a business leader, you are undoubtedly going to have setbacks. Those can be viewed as detrimental to your future or building blocks–you decide.

2. Stay Humble

Ego can cripple your company if you’re not careful. As a leader, you will be forced to make decisions and be accountable for your company–this doesn’t make you better than anyone. More responsibility doesn’t equal more self-worth.

Aurelius says, “you’ve made enough mistakes yourself. You’re just like them.” Remember, that if you find yourself getting frustrated with a new hire or feeling entitled.

3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Most of the things that anger you, are irrelevant to where you want to go in life and with your business. If you get hung up on every situation that didn’t pan out in your favor, you wouldn’t get far. As a leader, your ability to demonstrate grit can be contagious. If you’re calm in the midst of a storm, your team is likely to be too.

As Marcus puts it, “When you lose your temper or even feel irritated: [remember] that human life is very short. Before long all of us will be laid out side by side.”

Marcus Aurelius has been dead for over 1800 years and his leadership lessons still resonate today. This is because human behavior hasn’t changed much. People want to follow someone who perseveres, doesn’t let the small stuff get to them and stays humble. These lessons were relevant 1800 years ago, there relevant today and I foresee them being relevant for time to come.

Photo by UGArdener